Lawmaker lays down markers on fiscal 2010 shipbuilding budget

Mississippi Democrat says Navy should abandon the DDG-1000 next-generation destroyer.

Weeks before the Obama administration sends a fiscal 2010 budget outline to Capitol Hill, House Armed Services Seapower and Expeditionary Forces Subcommittee Chairman Gene Taylor, D-Miss., is reasserting his belief that the Navy should abandon the DDG-1000 next-generation destroyer.

In a statement Thursday, Taylor dismissed the destroyer as "unaffordable" and warned the administration that expected cost increases on the ship "will require diverting funding from other new construction projects to pay the over-run."

Taylor's statement comes just days after Pentagon acquisition chief John Young penned a memo warning that current plans to limit the DDG-1000 to three ships instead of the seven once planned would force cost increases that would put it in violation of the Nunn-McCurdy law.

In the memo, Young, a Bush administration veteran who is expected to stay onboard until a successor is named, suggests placing the Future Surface Combatant now planned by the Navy within the DDG-1000 program until the Navy decides on a design for the future ship. Doing so would spread out the development costs for the truncated DDG-1000 program across more ships and avoid a breach of law.

Aside from limiting the DDG-1000 to three ships, the Navy has decided to restart production of DDG-51 destroyers in fiscal 2010 and fiscal 2011. And, from fiscal 2012 to fiscal 2015, the service plans to buy guided missile destroyers -- dubbed Future Surface Combatants -- using the same hull as the existing DDG-51 or the DDG-1000.

"In my opinion there is absolutely no value in spending even more precious shipbuilding funds to redesign the DDG-1000 as a ballistic missile-capable platform when the affordable vessel already exists in the DDG-51 destroyer," Taylor said. Both the DDG-51s and the DDG-1000s are built at Northrop Grumman's Ingalls shipyard in Taylor's district and at General Dynamics' Bath Iron Works in Maine.

While his statement did not name Young, a longtime advocate of the DDG-1000, Taylor said in an interview that he wrote it partly in response to Young's memo. "Continuing resistance from outgoing Bush administration officials to the common sense strategy of restarting the DDG-51 destroyer class is not helpful to the Navy and the nation," Taylor said. "The shipbuilding plan needs less meddling, not more."

Taylor also urged the administration to restructure the Littoral Combat Ship, which has suffered from severe cost overruns and now cost $1.4 million each. "In particular, the failure of the LCS program to deliver on the promise of an affordable, capable, and reconfigurable warship only puts the exclamation point on a Bush administration's strategy that was neither well envisioned nor properly executed," Taylor said. He recommended using common combat and propulsion systems for the two variants of LCS, built by teams led by Lockheed Martin and General Dynamics.

Taylor also said he wants to abandon the use of a lead system integrator -- essentially a contractor who manages and supervises major weapons programs -- on the LCS. In recent years, he and other House Armed Services Committee members have been concerned the Pentagon has ceded too much program management to contractors, allowing cost overruns, schedule delays and other problems to go undetected until too late.

"I hope that the new officials within the Obama administration will reach out to the Congress for ideas and suggestions on shipbuilding programs before creating even more imbalance and uncertainty in the shipbuilding master plan," Taylor said.