Budget Crunch Imperils Navy Shipbuilding

January 24, 2012
By Robert K. Ackerman
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The future of U.S. Navy shipbuilding may depend on savings realized elsewhere in the sea service, according to a panel at West 2012 in San Diego. With shipbuilding constituting only about 10 percent of the Navy budget, other cost savings may be necessary for the Navy to build the ships it needs to meet new strategic realities. Ronald O'Rourke, a specialist in naval affairs with the Congressional Research Service, urged the Navy to cut costs in other areas while applying smart procurement lessons to shipbuilding. Traditional lessons include having requirements up front, managing risk by not trying to do too much, accepting 70-80 percent solutions and providing stability for industry. New lessons to be applied include using modified designs instead of new ones, including commercial designs, and increasing commonality in parts and systems. Mike Petters, president and chief executive officer of Huntington Ingalls Industries, provided an industry perspective by noting that the more planners can get a shipbuilding program into a serial production run, the more likely the Navy can manage investments and risks as well as control the outcome. Requirements, funding and execution are all interrelated, he added. Vice Adm. Richard W. Hunt, USN, commander, naval surface forces, U.S. Pacific Fleet, pointed out that the Navy must place active lifecycle management up front. This includes fuel, spares and weapons, among others. Adm. Hunt also warned against overdoing requirements. "We can't take a second position seat to any adversary out there, but we have to know what is enough," he said. "We can't go high level on every platform."

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