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Lawmakers blast Navy for delays with Ford-class carrier

Senators blasted Navy leaders for cost overruns and delays in building the first-in-class supercarrier Gerald R. Ford, which features leap-ahead technologies that have hamstrung timely production. condemned billions of dollars in cost overruns in an overdue aircraft carrier program, cracking down on Navy officials Thursday at an Armed Services Committee hearing.

The future carrier Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) and the follow-on USS John F. Kennedy (CVN 79) are the first two ships of the Ford-class carrier program, which has risen that has gone $4.7 billion over budget estimates so far and fallen five years behind the initial production schedule.

"While we recognize that designing and building an aircraft is a difficult and costly, the committee is concerned that some of the problems were foreseeable and should have been resolved years ago," Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island, D-R.I., the rankingop democrats on the Senate Armed Service Committee, said at a Thursday hearingpanel.

Other senators on the committee also criticized the Navy for underestimating the magnitude of the huge Ford-class ships, which feature new systems like the advanced arresting gear and electromagnetic catapults that have had technical problems. The USS Gerald R. Ford is now expected to be delivered to the service delivery next May 2016, eight months after it was initially projected for completion.

"There's no excuse," Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, told said as she looked down from the committee table at Navy leaders. "You can talk about all the gee-whiz gadgets all you want, that's fantastic, but I will tell you this is affecting all the other services as well."

The estimated cost for the future carrier USS Gerald R. Ford was raised to $12.9 billion, up $2.4 billion from the original estimate.

Sitting at the witness’s tables were several Navy officials, including Sean Stackley, assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development and acquisition, explained that some cost overruns stemmed from problems early in the supercarrier building and design process.  He tried to explain what went wrong in the early process.

"I am accountable," Stackley said, directly addressing the chairman, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. "Costs were estimated, and design and production proceeded with inadequate information regarding the complexity of the new systems."

Stackley said that risk factors were not properly recognized and this impacted cost at each development stage. Production of the USS Gerald R. Ford is now 95 percent complete and cost-performance improvements are being implemented, according to Stackley said.

The An in-depth study, documenting the failures of the program and predictable outcomes, was produced by the Government Accountability Office recently released an in-depth study of the program's failures. with a statement delivered by GAO Managing Director of Acquisition and Sourcing Management Paul Francis. 

"Right now we’re looking at getting less for more," Paul Francis, the GAO's managing director of acquisition and sourcing management, said. , criticizing the NavyThe GAO official then used a baseball metaphor. The Navy, he said, essentially has to hit "seven home runs in the bottom of the ninth" to meet the most recent cost estimates.

The Ford-class supercarriers were developed to replace the Nimitz-class carriers, the first of which was authorized by Congress way back in 1967 during the Vietnam War. (To be sure, the first three Nimitz-class ships suffered repeated production delays; it took seven years to build the first in-class Nimitz.)

Some of the new technology planned for the Ford-class carriers includes a new electrical distribution system, enlarged flight deck and an electromagnetic catapult system. It also includes many crew comfort updates, such as bigger gyms and smaller berthings. The carriers are expected to last for fifty years. Stackley expects that the new carrier design can be used for the next fifty years.

"It is therefore imperative that our future carrier force have the capability necessary to defeat the future threat, but too, that it does so at a cost the nation can bear," Stackley said, promising clarity and accountability moving forward

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