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US lawmakers urged to press on with new Navy ship

July 19, 2005

By Peter Kaplan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – 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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