The Aircraft Carrier Industrial Base Coalition brought more than 130 members from its 400 constituent companies to Capitol Hill Thursday to urge continued support for the aircraft carrier program. The sixth annual breakfast, held at the Rayburn Building, was attended by Reps. Glenn Nye, D-Va., and Rob Wittman, R-Va. Both serve on the House Armed Services Committee and both are very vocal on keeping a minimum of 11 carriers in the fleet through 2039.
As one might expect, the construction and capabilities of the forthcoming carrier Gerald R. Ford was the top topic. Scoop Deck had a good talk with Wittman and senior leadership from Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding … but you’ll have to read about that in Monday’s edition of Navy Times.
We will share this nugget with you, though: We could not find anyone who agreed with Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ 2009 plan that would shift from four- to five-year intervals. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus in congressional testimony earlier this year said the move would put carrier procurement on “a more fiscally sustainable path.” This would defer the fiscal ’12 procurement of CVN 79 by one year and the fiscal ’16 procurement of CVN 80 by two years — and could create a domino effect as deployments and refueling schedules are adjusted to accommodate.
The industry leaders Scoop Deck talked to balked at the idea that this would save money. On the contrary, they said the subsequent loss of expertise would likely lead to higher costs.
Congress seems to share this concern. On April 13, analysis guru Ron O’Roarke of the Congressional Research Service provided lawmakers this background and issues report.
Funding levels for fiscal ’11 are not yet finalized, so the jury is out on the plan. We’ll keep you posted.