Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 15. In a letter to Sen. John McCain, Mabus said the Navy is conducting "a line-by-line review" of possible cost-cutting measures for new aircraft carriers. (MCC Sam Shavers / Navy)
Although a plan to control cost growth on its new aircraft carriers is already in place, the U.S. Navy is continuing to conduct “a line-by-line review … to identify further opportunity to reduce cost and to mitigate risk,” the service told a key congressional critic.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., charged earlier this month that the Navy was not effectively managing cost increases on the Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) and John F. Kennedy (CVN 79), the first ships in a new class of nuclear-powered aircraft carriers built in Virginia at Newport News Shipbuilding.
“Not only have your actions to date failed to control cost growth in this $40 billion program,” McCain wrote, “it appears that you do not now have a plan to prevent future increases.”
“It is essential to improve upon material delivery to the shipyard,” Mabus wrote, adding it is “equally important” to correct those issues for the Kennedy.
Mabus also reiterated that cost was a major issue on the carrier program before he took office in 2009.
“I have shared in the past my concern when I took office and learned the magnitude of new technologies and design change being brought to the Ford,” he wrote.
Those new technologies included newly designed nuclear reactors, propulsion and power systems; aircraft launch and recovery systems; and a host of detailed technical improvements.
“Today we are confronting the cost impacts of these decisions made more than a decade ago,” Mabus wrote to McCain.
The Ford, projected in 2007 to cost about $11 billion, now is expected to run more than $13 billion, a cost growth of 18 percent.
The Kennedy, expected in 2007 cost $8.6 billion, now projects to about $10.3 billion, a growth of about 20 percent.
Neither ship is close to the 25 percent marker that would trigger a Nunn-McCurdy breach, requiring the program to be revalidated.
A congressional analyst speaking on condition of anonymity after reading the letter to McCain thought the Navy was taking a number of appropriate moves to control the carrier program.
“They recognize the cost growth, but they’re cleaning up some one else’s mess,” the analyst said. “From a management perspective, I can’t think of anything they’re not doing.”