COVID-19 NEWS: Navy Not Rushing Frigate Contract Award
General Dynamics Electric Boat concept art
The Navy is pushing to accelerate contract awards to mitigate potential schedule slips resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. However, this so far doesn't apply for one of its most prominent programs, a senior service official said April 16.
The future guided-missile frigate, or FFG(X), is slated to replace the Littoral Combat Ship and have the ability to counter submarines, airplanes and other surface ships. The service formally kicked off the effort in July 2017 by releasing a request for information that outlined its need for a multi-mission vessel that leverages existing designs.
The contract was originally slated to be awarded by July. In March, former Acting United States Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly told radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt that the service was looking to push that date forward. However, Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition James “Hondo” Geurts told reporters that there is no change to the schedule.
“We are marching along the schedule that I’ve had all along,” Geurts said. “And that is to try to get that awarded as soon as possible this fiscal year, and so we are continuing along that plan. … I’m not going to give you an exact date, but we are moving along in a disciplined manner, but aggressively, on that program.”
In recent months, the Navy has been awarding contracts earlier than planned to keep programs on track during the pandemic. For instance, the service accelerated a LPD-31 amphibious transport dock ship award and sped up the CVN-74 USS John C. Stennis refueling and complex overhaul planning process from July to April. For LPD-31, the service announced this month it had awarded a $1.5 billion contract modification to Huntington Ingalls Industries. Geurts said this came about eight months earlier than planned.
To do so, the service used a technique they used for the F-18 Hornet, he said. Rather than use a request for proposals to gauge price estimates, the Navy put out an offer based on price information it already had.
“We know pretty well what an LPD costs,” he said. “We used a price offer process where, using all the data that we collectively had. We made an offer on what we thought a fair and reasonable, yet aggressive price was, on LPD 31.”
The Navy is also looking for ways to operate its shipyards more efficiently amid the coronavirus, he noted. “We’re learning in the shipyards, maybe different techniques … to gain some efficiency while also creating some resiliency,” he said. “I think over the next three or four weeks we’ll get a better view over the exact delay and disruption and how we might mitigate that, or … where do we have opportunity where we can accelerate things.”