The House Armed Services Seapower and Projection Forces released its mark-up Tuesday that raises funding allocated for the construction of aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), adjusting the cost cap up from $11.755 billion to $12.9 billion. However, the subcommittee expressed concerns about the costs of the program.
“The committee remains concerned about the continued escalation in costs associated with Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carrier and the negative consequences associated with this continued escalation on the entirety of the ship construction accounts,” the Subcommittee mark-up language states.
Increases in funding is just one of the many marks to the Navy and Air Force budgets. Members of the subcomittee also issued marks affecting the Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship and carrier-launched drone program, as well as the Air Force’s C-130J and next generation tanker programs.
Nearing completion, the Ford is the first-in-class manifestation of a new generation of high-tech, Ford-class aircraft carriers planned by the Navy to systematically replace existing Nimitz-class carriers one-for-one over the next 50-years or so as they reach the end of their service life. Navy officials have indicated that the cost of the program will inform development for the entire fleet of new Ford-class carriers.
The subcommittee expressed concerns about anticipated costs and directed the Secretary of the Navy to provide a report prior to March 1, 2014, updating the Navy’s ship building plan.
“The committee believes that there will be significant pressures on the ship construction accounts that will result from the Ohio-class replacement ballistic missile submarine program, while concurrently supporting the balance of ship construction requirements. The committee also believes that a significant increase to the ship construction accounts is unsustainable in times of budget challenges,” the subcommittee language states.
In a surprise, the subcommittee offered praise to the Littoral Combat Ships program despite recent struggles to include an internal Navy report that questioned the fleet’s ability to survive in combat. Officials also questioned the ship’s ability to protect itself from a cyber attack.
The subcommittee praised the radar system currently on board the Littoral Combat Ships USS Independence variant for its ability to detect and track a wide range of targets. As a result, the subcommittee has directed the Navy to deliver a report detailing the steps the service has taken to ensure sailors are sufficiently trained on the radar’s capability so as to maximize its value.
The mark up language also directs the Navy to establish clear metrics or “achievables” for its current X-47B carrier-launched UAS demonstrator program. The subcommittee directed the demonstrator aircraft be able to “conduct unmanned autonomous rendezvous and aerial-refueling operations using the receptacle and probe equipment of the X–47B aircraft.”
The X-47B recently achieved the historic milestone of succeeding with a first-ever launch from an aircraft carrier. It’s scheduled to make it’s first-ever arrested landing on a carrier later this summer.
The mark-up also expressed support for the ongoing development of the Navy’s Air and Missile Defense Radar (AMDR) being planned for multiple ships, including the future deployment of this capability on the Arleigh Burke-class Destroyer Flight III.
“AMDR would provide multi-mission capabilities, simultaneously supporting long-range, exo-atmospheric detection, tracking and discrimination of ballistic missiles, as well as Area and Self Defense against air and surface threats,” the subcommittee states.
However, the subcommittee expressed questions about some aspects of the AMDR development and has asked the Navy for a detailed report to the defense committees on the technology which addresses key requirements for the system. For example, the subcommittee wants to know more about the “required space, cooling and electrical distribution upgrades necessary to support AMDR on the Arleigh Burke-class Destroyer Flight III.”
Other directives include permitting the Air Force to use multi-year procurement authority for acquisition of multiple variants of the C-130J baseline aircraft for years 2014 to 2018.
Multi-year acquisition contracts allow the government to achieve procurement objectives over a period of several years while lowering costs through larger-quantity buys spread out over a longer period; multi-year contracts also help industry by allowing them to better plan and establish production schedules, supply lines and revenue estimates.