JUST IN: Navy May Need More Money for Ford Carrier Fixes
The Navy may need additional funding to fix problems with its Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carriers, the service’s top civilian official said Oct. 30.
Slated to replace the legacy Nimitz-class carriers, the Ford-class has been facing a slew of technical challenges, including issues with the lead ship's 11 advanced weapons elevators.
Navy Secretary Richard Spencer said he has “medium confidence” that the service’s latest $197 million reprogramming request will be sufficient enough to fix the USS Gerald R. Ford's elevators and wants to leave the door open to ask for additional funds.
“It’s first of class,” he told reporters at a Heritage Foundation media roundtable in Washington, D.C. “First of class is tough. ... I'd be remiss if I say that's the last [request for additional funding]. I'd rather have the option to say, ‘We’re going to come for more,’ than saying ‘No, we’re capped off now.’ I feel good on what we're finally learning.”
The first deployment for the USS Gerald R. Ford, the lead ship in the class, was originally scheduled for 2018, but officials are now saying that might not happen until about 2024. However, Spencer predicted earlier this week that it could be ready sooner.
In January, Spencer announced that he made a deal with President Donald Trump promising his resignation if the elevators were not fixed by the time post-shakedown availability maintenance work was completed. The deal was made “for a rally purpose” and was based on information provided by Huntington Ingalls Industries at an earlier date, he noted. HII is the prime contractor for the new carriers.
Spencer said he knew about the elevator issues but was “completely confident” the problems would be fixed in time.
However, after he made his promise to Trump, Huntington Ingalls changed the timeline during a May meeting and stated the elevators would not be ready until around the end of 2020, Spencer noted.
“That's when I went, ‘Do they really know what they're doing?’” he said. “That was a moment of inflection. I called up ... the lead director and I said, ‘This is all hands-on deck. Does the board of directors know what is going on with management here? Because our trust and confidence on this project, specific project of the elevators, has been eroded significantly.'”
The Navy then brought in a team to take over, with Huntington Ingalls acting as a subcontractor, he said. Over the last three months, 22,000 work orders were completed, and seven of the 11 elevators are now “moving,” four of which are certified.
In response to Spencer’s comments on the elevators, Huntington Ingalls said in a statement: “We are proud of the work we have accomplished on USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) during the ship’s maintenance availability. We completed important work on multiple ship systems. We will continue to support our Navy partner in their preparations for the ship’s deployment and we’re confident that Ford will bring great capability to the Navy and to our nation for decades to come.”