In the News: U.S. Navy vows to sail steadier on shipbuilding

Link to the article

* ASN RD&A agreed that the Navy does not have "good track record"

* Says ship costs rising faster than its total budget (one of the Navy's most pressing challenges)

* Navy vows aggressive cost-reduction drive

Navy leaders told a panel of the House of Representatives Armed Forces Committee that they were committed to stepped-up oversight, aggressive cost-reduction and enhanced competition at all levels of the industry.

These measures are not likely to help much after the ships are already designed, especially if the technology is not mature (see my prior post on the GAO ship building study).

At stake are plans for a 313-ship Navy by 2019, up from 283 currently.

Fueling costs are low-rate production, limited competition, increased system complexity, frequent changes to Navy shipbuilding plans and tweaks to requirements and design, the Navy said.

In addition, in "even our most mature programs, we have experienced cost growth as a result of performance shortfalls and quality escapes," Stackley added in written testimony with Vice Admiral Kevin McCoy, commander of the Naval Sea Systems Command. They did not spell out what they meant by quality "escapes."

What they mean are LPD 17 engine lube oil weld failures, NDT inspector gun decking inspections, weld filler metal control, and LHD electrial wiring.

Rep. Gene Taylor, the Mississippi Democrat who chairs the panel, said failure to curb shipbuilding costs could sink the Navy's hopes to build the 313-ship fleet.

"If we cannot get these shipbuilding costs under control, we will never again have the number of ships the CNO (chief of naval operations) needs to perform all the tasks that we as a nation ask," he said in a prepared statement.

The program to build a "littoral" combat ship for coastal waters, of which the Navy hopes to buy 55, is a "disaster," with surging costs, Taylor added.

 

C. Michael Petters, president of Northrop Grumman's shipbuilding sector, testified that buying ships one at a time, as Congress typically does, was the "antithesis" of the most efficient way to build them.

David Heebner, executive vice president of General Dynamics' Marine Systems business unit, also said stability of requirements was key to affordability. 

Link to More Commercial Work Not a Solution: U.S. Shipbuilders

(you should think through why this might be so, but I expect it has something to do with skill transferrability between high tech, complex warships and low tech, basic cargo ships)