Senator Cautions Navy on Maturity of DDG Flight III Before Multiyear Procurement
By RICHARD R. BURGESS, Managing Editor
WASHINGTON — A senator from a state that is home to a destroyer shipbuilder has urged the Navy to ensure the maturity of an upgraded destroyer’s design before proceeding with a multiyear contract for the ship.
The Navy has requested for its 2018 budget funds to begin multiyear procurement of the Flight III of the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer (DDG 51 class) for a quantity of 10 ships. Multiyear procurements typically yield a savings of 10 percent over the time span of the procurement.
“From a ship-design perspective, we’re at 86 percent complete with the design, to introduce Flight III to the DDG 51,” Allison F. Stiller, an official performing the duties of assistant secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition, said June 21 in testimony before the Senate Armed Services seapower subcommittee. “We have a handshake agreement with [Huntington Ingalls Industries] Ingalls [Shipbuilding] to introduce that engineering change proposal [ECP] on their [fiscal] ‘17 ship.
“We recently received a proposal from [General Dynamics] Bath Iron Works for their ECP and we’re in negotiations with them. We’ve also received a bid from them on their ‘16 ship, a Flight IIA, and we’re also asking them to give us an ECP to look at that as a Flight III,” she said. “At start of construction with the ‘18 multiyear [the Flight III design] will be 100 percent complete.”
The Flight III includes the new Raytheon-built SPY-6 Air and Missile Defense Radar.
“The radar is doing quite well in testing,” Stiller said. “We’ve gotten permission to buy the radars for those ships. We are also testing our Aegis Combat System that will marry up with that radar, and testing is going well.”
“I’m very much in favor of multiyear contracts,” said Sen. Angus King, an Independent from Maine, where Bath Iron Works is located. “Taxpayer savings, better for the industrial base. I’m am worried, however, about the Flight III being ready for multiyear [procurement].”
King noted that generally typically multiyear contracts are approved for systems where the design is complete and after “having built one or two and having seen how it actually works, whether the cost estimates are realistic.”
“My only request is to consider slowing the multiyear down — maybe six months — in order to start construction on the first Flight III before we buy 10 ships and ask our industrial base to make commitments based upon not an unproven design but a new design, a substantially changed design,” King said. “These aren’t minor changes, [they’re] much more than the Flight IIA changes.”
“We feel like the design is mature, that we understand it,” Stiller said. “We will have a competition for the multiyear. I have high confidence that we have the design well in hand. Both yards have been on schedule on the design.”
“You’re asking our yards to take a big risk on 10 ships,” King said. “None of that design have ever been built before.”
“We view the amount of change in this particular Flight III design touched about 45 to 50 percent of the drawings,” Stiller said. “In fact, we touched more drawings on the Flight IIA than we are on Flight III. Also, we were not nearly as complete with design when we introduced Flight IIA.”
“I’m a big supporter of multiyear and a big supporter of Flight III,” King said. “I think’s its going to bring a major advantage to the fleet and we want to get it as soon as possible. But I’d rather get it right than get it fast.”