Mabus: Budget Deal Prevents Halt to Shipbuilding

Mabus: Budget Deal Prevents Halt to Shipbuilding

Crystal City, Va. — Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said the bipartisan Congressional budget deal could prevent the Navy from having to abruptly stop ongoing shipbuilding, maintenance and refueling work on aircraft carriers and other platforms.

“I have not seen a budget on time since I have been Secretary. I hope this agreement signals the start of more regular budget cycles,” Mabus told the audience.

Speaking to a large crowd of observers Jan. 14 at the Navy’s Surface Warfare Association Annual Symposium here, Mabus explained that if continuing resolutions, or CRs, were to continue further into the year, the Navy would have to stop work on several key ship building and maintenance projects.

Defense spending under sequestration was capped at $498 billion – and the new bipartisan top line deal now calls for roughly $520 billion in defense spending for fiscal year 2014.

However, in the absence of a formal budget, CRs cap spending at prior year levels, thus restricting the services ability to move funds where needed to continue vitally important acquisition and maintenance activities, Mabus explained.

“If they had not reached a budget agreement and were going forward with a continuing resolution all through this year, work on the next carrier would have stopped because we are going to spend more in 2014 than we did in 2013 on that carrier,” Mabus explained.  “The ability to use money for what you need, now, is essential managing.”

The “next-carrier” reference appears to have been a comment on the USS Kennedy, the second next-generation Ford-class carrier now under construction at Newport News Shipbuilding, Newport News, Va. Initial pieces of the Kennedy are now being assembled in anticipation of a 2025 service entry date, Navy officials said.

Mabus also said continued CRs could also stop the ongoing Refueling Complex Overhaul, or RCOH, a mid-life maintenance and refueling initiative for the USS Lincoln now underway at Newport News Shipyard, Va.

CRs also prevent services, such as the Navy, from conducting what’s called new-start acquisition programs, thus impacting programs and restricting flexibility, Mabus explained.

The recently passed bipartisan budget deal adds roughly $22 billion back to the top line for defense spending above sequester levels for fiscal year 2014 and $9 billion back for fiscal year $2015, Pentagon officials said.

The automatic spending cuts known as sequestration, mandated by the Budget Control Act of 2011, specify that roughly $492 billion will be cut from defense spending over a nine year period.

While the top line budget deal could reduce the sequestration cuts in 2014 and 2015, there are still budget questions about 2016 and beyond. In his remarks, Mabus acknowledged that there would need to be further budget resolution beyond 2015.

“The bipartisan budget agreement passed in Congress helps by giving us some predictability and allowing us to plan – but it is important to note that this only goes through next year,” he said.

Mabus also praised ongoing shipbuilding efforts, saying they are essential to the overall Navy goal of reaching a 300-ship fleet by the end of this decade. In particular, he praised ongoing work on the Joint High Speed Vessel and Mobile Landing Platforms.

On Jan. 11, the Navy christened its fourth Joint High Speed Vessel, the USNS Fall River.

Built by NASSCO, the Navy’s first Mobile Landing Platform recently completed contract trials and is slated for final delivery in March of this year. The MLP is a massive 80,000-ton, 785 foot-long commercial Alaska-class crude oil carrier configured to perform a range of military missions such as amphibious cargo on-load/off-load and logistics support.

The Navy plans four new sea-basing ships to include two Mobile Landing Platforms, or MLPs and two modified MLPs, configured into what the Navy calls Afloat Forward Staging Bases, or AFSBs.

“The number of ships and submarines is what provides that global presence America relies on.  On 9–11, 2001, the U.S. Navy had 316 ships. By 2008 we were down to 278 ships. In the four years before I became the Secretary, The Navy put 19 ships under contract. I’m proud to say that since I’ve been secretary, 60 ships have been put under contract,” Mabus said.

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“… If they had not reached a budget agreement and were going forward with a continuing resolution all through this year, work on the next carrier would have stopped”

But work on the “next carrier”, i.e., the second _Ford_ class carrier, SHOULD stop. Stop dead.

Because Gilmore’s latest DOT&E report is finding grave technical deficiencies with the first _Ford_. Especially with the new electromagnetic cat/arrester systems that will be centrally important to carrier ops. Rushing to production on more vessels before the bugs are successfully squashed is going to be a huge waste of scarce money. It’s just prime-contractor welfare.

The services have forgotten every single hard-learned lesson about the importance of prototyping complex systems. Prototyping extensively BEFORE going to production. That way, nonrecurring-engineering charges for retrofits are minimized or eliminated. And the fleet receive ships which work well right from the start.

Really, what the Navy ought to have done would be to take a big cheap hull from, say, a laid-up supertanker, and made a floating engineering lab out of it. Remove the deckhouse and bridge. Graft on a flight deck structure from a retiring CVN: from _Enterprise_, which is going to the breakers’ ways. Tear out the old steam cats during the transplant and install EMALS plus the other whiz-bang advanced technologies. Plenty of room below decks in a supertanker hull for cheap conventional generators to drive the power electronics.

Then use the proven Aegis development philosophy. (“Build a little, test a little, learn a lot.”)

After the learning, when it’s clear what the real demands and actual problems of the new system are, and after the problems are solidly fixed, then and only then start building hulls with those systems in them to go to the fleet.

Navy Secretary Shortbus is all about making sure the flow of money to defense contractors never slows down. It’s good to see a “public servant” so concerned about the well being of a very select few.

One of the first ones in government that has some common sense. Some will find a way to remove him.

Actually, as a nearly 30-year budget practicioner with the Navy and OSD, delays in the appropriations process (through Continuing Resolutions) really have NO impact on program cash flow (at the expenditure level). For programs that are going to go on-and-on, the contract (an obligation whch say you can start spending) is a mere formality. Like all effective and profitable companies, business can proceed at whatever pace is necessary, and fund with their own or borrowed dollars, using the government money as backfill as they go along. (Even the Italians have it right. They’re going to buy 10 ships using banks to finance the shipbuilding, with the government buying them when finished.) Too much “sound and furry, signifying nothing” about the “impacts” of continuing resolution.

torque: isn’t here a land based EMALS facility??

“I have not seen a budget on time since I have been Secretary. I hope this agreement signals the start of more regular budget cycles,”.…I thought that was the JOB congress had to perform per the Constitution.….CR’s for the last what 6 years is not the way to “run” a gov’t. Lets get back to the basics! a budget every year & a balanced one at that, not the maddening addition to our national debt, which is a threat to our national security.….


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