ORLANDO, Fla. — The Navy is already taking steps to mitigate the effects of a longterm continuing resolution on its most strategically important program, the Ohio replacement submarine, its top uniformed official said Wednesday.
The Navy plans to seek authorities from Congress that would allow the service to begin work on the Ohio replacement program, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson said.
"We need to get started on that, and we can't start that under a CR because we don't have any new start authority," he said. "So we're going to be seeking an anomaly to get permission to start on that very important program."
Exactly how long Congress plans to extend the current CR is a matter of debate. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter on Tuesday sent a letter to the Hill rebuking lawmakers for a CR that would extend until May. However, congressional staffers told Defense News that they were confused by the letter, as Republican leadership had supposedly been discussing a resolution that would last only until March or April.
Speaking to Defense News in an exclusive interview at the Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation and Education Conference (I/ITSEC), Richardson sharply condemned a longterm CR, calling it "extremely disruptive" and citing the ripple effects to procurement accounts.
"There’s actually no cost savings in a continuing resolution because you just disrupt the whole flow of business, so you actually end up being more expensive at the end of the day because you just have so much uncertainty, which translates to risk, which translates to cost."
For instance, a CR would require the service to write a separate contract for the period of the CR, and then to rewrite it once the budget is approved, Richardson said, adding that about 20 to 40 percent of contracts would be affected.
"So even as we're trying to reduce our headquarters number, we're doubling our contract burden in the other areas of the Navy," he said.
Because the Defense Department has operated under a CR for at least some part of the year for almost a full decade, the Navy has actually modified its purchasing behavior.
"We don't even put anything in the first fiscal quarter that's important because it's always very vulnerable to a continuing resolution, so we're really operating on three quarters out of four," he said. "What company can be competitive operating only three quarters of the year?"
The CNO declined to comment on the recently released conference report of the defense authorization bill, saying it would be "premature" to comment on something he hadn’t parsed through.
"I need to get in and look at the details," he said. "How does it differ from the president’s request and all those sorts of things. Until I do that analysis, I’m really kind of shooting in the dark."