A Matter of Priorities
Shipbuilding dominates 2009 Navy budget debate
By RICHARD R. BURGESS, Managing Editor
Production Gap Worries
Wrangling over fiscal 2009 destroyers highlights fears of a loss of
industrial base in surface warship production.
■ Ship production rates are insufficient to reach the Navy’s goal
of a 313-ship fleet.
■ Aircraft procurement plans look safe from cuts so far.
■ Some Navy unfunded priorities receive attention.
As Congress returned in September for a flurry
of activity for three weeks prior to breaking
for the November national elections, only
one of the four bills that govern defense spending —
the authorization bill from the House Armed Services
Committee (HASC) — had passed. The Senate and
House Appropriations defense subcommittees had
approved their bills for full consideration Sept. 10.
Under the legislative process, armed services committees authorize the military to spend funds, but the
military can spend only to the limit the appropriations
committees allow. A final agreement is hammered out
in conference committee.
Shipbuilding issues were left hanging, and the possibility of operating under a continuing resolution
until late November or December seemed likely.
President George W. Bush’s 2009 request for ship
procurement totaled $14.1 billion, which would fund seven new ships and the service-life extension of a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier and a ballistic-missile submarine.
Debate also continued over whether to build more than
two of the Zumwalt-class DDG 1000 destroyers, or continue to produce more Arleigh Burke-class destroyers.
House authorizers left the options open, authorizing only $450 million toward either the third Zumwalt
or restarting the Burke production, with advance funding for two Burkes. House appropriators supported
$500.9 million for Zumwalt advance procurement.
Senate appropriators supported
the third Zumwalt at $2.5 billion
and added $397 million for advance
procurement for one Burke.
Secretary of the Navy Donald C.
Winter told Navy Times in
September that he supported a
third Zumwalt but, more importantly, stressed the need for at least
one DDG of either type, citing the
necessity of maintaining the shipbuilding industrial base.
The shipbuilding industry is struggling with a gap
because, typically, a follow-on design is under way
before production of an older class ends. In this case,
Burke production funding ended in 2005, with
Zumwalt starting in 2008.
If Congress approves more Burke DDGs for the Navy,
procurement of some long-lead components could
become problematic. For example, a 50-week delay
would be incurred in restarting the production of reduction gears for the Burke class, according to one shipbuilding industry expert. The Navy’s eighth top unfunded priority is two spare sets of Burke reduction gears.
An open question, if the Burke production is restarted, is whether the Navy will introduce design
changes and new technologies and systems to the
The final decision on the third Zumwalt likely will
affect funding available for other programs. For example, the House authorizers added in the Navy’s second
highest unfunded priority, the 10th San Antonio-class
landing platform dock ship, for $1.8 billion — House
appropriators called for $1.6 billion.
Senate appropriators limited support to advance
funding of $273 million for the ship. They also added
$178 million for advance procurement for another
amphibious assault ship (LHA 6 class).