Funding Restricted for Ford-Class Carriers

By Jon Harper
Lawmakers are pushing new funding restrictions in an effort to control the costs of Ford-class aircraft carriers.

The Senate’s version of the fiscal year 2016 National Defense Authorization Act reduces the procurement cost cap for CVN-79, the USS John F. Kennedy, and subsequent aircraft carriers by $100 million, bringing it down to $11.4 billion. In comparison, the cost of the CVN-78, the USS Gerald R. Ford, has risen to $12.8 billion.

The Obama administration strongly objected to the move.

“A $100 million reduction would degrade the capabilities of the CVN-79 and follow-on ships or increase the risk of a breach of the cap,” the administration said in a statement about the legislation, which President Barack Obama has threatened to veto. “The current cost cap represents a significant reduction from CVN-78 and will be challenging to achieve. Further reductions may impact the delivery of integral warfighting capability.”

The Senate also voted to limit $191.4 million in advance procurement funds for CVN-80, the USS Enterprise, until the secretary of the Navy certifies that the CVN-80 design will mirror the CVN-79 design and provides a detailed justification of the CVN-80 plans and costs.

The administration warned about the potential consequences of the provision.

“This funding reduction would present unacceptable risk to CVN-80 being delivered on schedule and would result in a significant increase to the ship’s cost,” the administration said in a statement. “A delay in delivering CVN-80 would result in unacceptable risk in the Department of the Navy’s aircraft carrier force structure by causing a gap that reduces the force level below congressionally mandated requirements.”

Navy officials said they are taking measures to bring costs down for future carriers.

“We certainly hear the message loud and clear from the Congress,” said Rear Adm. Thomas Moore, program executive officer for aircraft carriers, at a media briefing.

Beginning in fiscal year 2017, the Navy will invest $25 million annually in research and development efforts to lower construction costs, primarily by finding ways to reduce manpower requirements. The service will look at process changes, material solutions and shipyard investments, with the aim of lowering the expected price tag of the Kennedy by $1 billion and the Enterprise by an additional $500 million, Navy officials said.

Moore said the design of the Ford-class is “very stable” now, which will help keep costs under control going forward.

Lawmakers from the Senate and House are expected to finish conferencing and pass a joint NDAA in September. If the Senate’s restrictions on the aircraft carriers remain in place, Obama would have to sign the legislation before they would go into effect.

Topics: Defense Department, DOD Budget, Shipbuilding, Aircraft Carriers

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