Defense Secretary Robert M.
Gates has said he probably will
request funding for more F/A-18s,
but suggested the issue will be studied during the ongoing Quadrennial
Defense Review of military capabilities and requirements.
Boeing, meanwhile, has given the
Navy an offer of 149 aircraft at $49.9
million apiece over the next five
years. Doing so, company officials
say, will amount to a 7 to 10 percent
cost savings per aircraft.
The Navy needs congressional
authorization to pursue a multiyear contract. And, with skeptics
of multiyear deals including Senate
Armed Services ranking member
John McCain, R-Ariz., it could be a
steep climb — at least this year.
The Senate bill does not prohibit
a multiyear buy, but stresses that the
aircraft must adhere to strict rules
governing multiyear procurement
— which include independent cost
estimates and a formal request from
the Navy — before the panel will
consider authorizing it.
In the meantime, it likely will be
up to House and Senate Armed
Services Committee members to
hammer out their differences on
the F/A-18s during conference
talks on the bill later this year.
Meanwhile, House and Senate
authorizers are likewise at odds
over how to power the Navy’s
future surface combatant fleet.
With the support of Sen. Susan
Collins, R-Maine, and others, Levin
included in his markup of the
authorization bill a provision that
would repeal a 2008 law requiring
the Navy to make its CG(X) cruiser
and other future surface combatants and amphibious assault ships
The law, which was attached to the
fiscal 2008 defense authorization bill,
was pushed two years ago by House
lawmakers, including Armed Services
seapower and expeditionary forces
subcommittee Chairman Gene
“If 5 percent of the money being spent on the warships guarding those waters could be spent on building a security force
that deals with the piracy, this could be much more effective
because these guys have bases on the land and the best way
to deal with them is to deny them a safe haven there.”
Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke
Somali Prime Minister
“For there to be significant change within the next 24 months
there needs to be significant change in the degree of awareness across the leadership within the Department of Defense
and the Department of the Navy. Cyber-security may have
more attention and it may be in a higher priority status but
I’m not certain that it is getting due consideration in spite of
the fact that we are at war.”
The Navy’s Senior Information Assurance Officer
On the road ahead for military cyber-security.
Taylor has said that conventionally powered surface combatants
now in the Navy’s inventory must
be refueled regularly, which slows
down operations and, potentially,
makes the ships targets at sea. He
also has argued that the upfront
investment in a nuclear power
plant — estimated at more than
$600 million per ship — would be
more than offset by fuel cost savings during the life of the vessel.
But Collins and other opponents
of the nuclear power provision have
argued the costs are simply too
high, particularly as the Navy struggles to reach its goal of a modern,
313-ship fleet. She said the Navy
should be able to decide for itself
how best to power its ships.
“I think that’s a real affordability
issue that we should take another
look at,” Collins told the Navy during a June 16 hearing.
For its part, the Navy has said it
would comply with the law, but
service officials have indicated they
ultimately would like the decision
on how to power the ships be theirs.
The outcome of the debate will
have long-term impacts on the
shipbuilding sector, in general, and
on yards in Mississippi and Maine,
General Dynamics’ Bath Iron
Works in Bath, Maine, and Northrop
Grumman’s Ingalls shipyard in
Pascagoula, Miss., have exclusively
built the Navy’s surface combatants
for more than 30 years.
But neither yard is nuclear certified, calling into question how the
Navy would build the CG(X) if it is
nuclear powered. Getting certification for a shipyard for nuclear
work is a time-consuming process
that involves a hefty investment in
facilities and manpower.
There appears to be little appetite within General Dynamics or
Northrop Grumman to add another
nuclear facility to their portfolio.
Each company already has a
nuclear-certified yard — Northrop’s
SEAPOWER / AUGUST 2009