The House Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces has released its markup on the FY14 National Defense Authorization Bill – H.R. 1960. In essence, Congress has inserted its specific comments into the Navy’s budget. Here are some highlights.
CVN-78. Congress agrees to increase the previously mandated spending cap on the Ford, CVN-78, from $11.755B to $12.9B which is the Navy’s new estimate of the final completed construction cost. The previous cap had been adjusted and set in 2010. That’s more than a billion dollar overrun since that point !!!! And, you know more is coming as the various new technologies like EMALS, AAG, radar, etc. are integrated into the ship. The Ford is going to cost well over $13B when done. We simply can’t afford that when the entire yearly shipbuilding budget is $15B. Carriers are either pricing themselves out of existence or pricing the rest of the fleet out.
Amphibious Combat Vehicle. Congress has directed the Comptroller General of the
to conduct an annual review of the Amphibious Combat Vehicle program including costs and analysis of alternatives. That’s Congress’ way of telling the Marines and the Navy that they don’t trust either of them to tell the truth and make fiscally sound decisions. When Congress tells you that you’re not trustworthy, that’s gotta hurt! United States
UCLASS. Congress has directed the Navy to demonstrate the air-to-air refueling capability of the X-47B no later than
1-Oct-14. This statement is astounding but I’m not entirely sure why. That Congress is now specifying test procedures is unheard of. Does Congress not trust the Navy to carry out a demonstration of such an important capability if left on their own? That’s entirely possible given that the Navy refused to carry out shock testing on the LCS and Ford class carriers in a relevant and useful time frame. The Navy is clearly being called to task over something but I’m unsure exactly what. This bears further watching.
Congress goes further with the UCLASS program by specifying that a Milestone A technology development contract may not be awarded
“… until a period of 30 days has elapsed following the date on which the Under Secretary certifies to the congressional defense committees that the software and system engineering designs for the control system and connectivity and aircraft carrier segments of such program can achieve, with low level of integration risk, successful compatibility and interoperability with the air vehicle segment selected for contract award with respect to such program.”
Again, Congress is letting DoD and the Navy know that they don’t trust them. There’s a background issue at work here that I’m unclear on.
Flt III AMDR. Congress has directed the Navy to submit a report on the proposed use of the AMDR radar on the Burke Flt III that will address capabilities of the system, limitations of the Burke with regard to hosting the AMDR, and an analysis of alternatives. Again, Congress is making it clear that they don’t believe the Navy’s own assessment and want to force the Navy to directly address some of the issues that the Navy has, thus far, skirted around.
There’s one resounding theme amongst Congress’ actions and that is a mistrust of the Navy. Congress seems not to believe that the Navy will provide timely, relevant, and accurate information upon which Congress can base their decisions. As a result, Congress is starting to get into the nitty-gritty details of weapons development and procurement. On the one hand, that’s great. Congress has, for far too long, abdicated their oversight role of the military and procurement spending by simply going along with pretty much whatever the military has requested. It’s about time Congress started asking questions and demanding answers. On the other hand, it’s a sad state of affairs when the Navy no longer retains the trust of Congress. As regular readers well know, the Navy has squandered their reservoir of trust on a seemingly endless string of poor decisions, abrupt changes in direction, misinformation, and incomplete or poorly performed analyses and assessments of weapons systems. The Navy’s chickens are coming home to roost and they have no one to blame but themselves.