Wednesday, July 20, 2005

US Lawmakers Urged To Press On With new Navy Ship

Pentagon officials on Tuesday urged U.S. lawmakers to press ahead with plans for a new Navy warship, the DD(X) Destroyer, and not impose cost caps. Northrop Grumman Corp., with a shipyard in Pascagoula, Mississippi, has had a leading design role in the DD(X) program.

Production is to be split with General Dynamics Corp.'s shipyard in Bath, Maine. Defense Department and Navy representatives told a House Armed Services subcommittee that the DD(X) destroyer was needed to deal with future military threats and would cost less to operate in the long run than older-generation DDG destroyers. "The department needs more than what DDG-51 ships can deliver," Kenneth Krieg, the Pentagon's top weapons buyer, told the House Armed Services Projections Subcommittee. Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Vernon Clark told the subcommittee that the DD(X> will be needed to deal with future military threats in land-attack situations. He said the destroyer's stealth capabilities and more powerful guns made it vastly better than the DDG-51 Arleigh Burke destroyers. The Navy wants to acquire 8 to 12 DD(X) ships but escalating costs of the new destroyer have become a major concern. The first DD(X) is projected to cost $3.3 billion with an average cost of $2.6 billion per copy once the rest are built. In February, President Bush's spending plan for fiscal 2006, starting Oct. 1, called for cutting $3 billion and two ships from the program. In May the full House Armed Services Committee proposed capping at $1.7 billion the cost of the DD(X), roughly half of the Navy's projection for the first ships. Krieg, Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, said it wasn't possible to provide all the new capabilities the Navy needs and stay within the $1.7 billion cost cap. The highly automated DD(X) would require a smaller crew, lowering operating costs. Krieg said that would save $4.2 billion in personnel costs over the 35-year life span of 10 ships. Krieg said the Pentagon was "committed to finding ways to control costs and improve shipbuilder cost performance" but he did not elaborate. He was still studying a "dual lead ship" strategy for the DD(X) program in which Northrop and General Dynamics would simultaneously build the initial DD(X) destroyers. That strategy would be an alternative to a tag-team strategy currently mandated by Congress that would force the Navy to order one ship from one of the yards in 2007 and from the other in 2008.

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