December 14, 2017

Kaine & Warner Call For Block Buy Of Future Aircraft Carriers

Wicker, Kaine, Lead Bipartisan Call, Citing Potential Savings for Taxpayers

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Tim Kaine (D-VA), were joined today by Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) and 14 Senators in sending a letter to Department of Defense Secretary James Mattis expressing their support for the Pentagon’s pursuit to block buy two Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carriers in FY2019.

“Committing to a block-buy for the newest generation of aircraft carriers would save us both time and money while offering much needed stability to our shipbuilders in Hampton Roads and suppliers across the Commonwealth as they build the ships to meet our nation’s national security needs,” Kaine said. “It is critical that we ensure tomorrow’s Navy has the next-generation of warships necessary to meet challenges around the world, and this procurement strategy will ensure that our flexible force continues to be ready and agile.”

“It is the official policy of the United States government – and in the interest of our national security – to meet the Navy’s requirement for 355 ships,” Wicker said. “That requirement includes having a total of 12 aircraft carriers, which are the centerpieces of American power on the seas.  Attaining this goal is going to require better procurement strategies and use of taxpayer dollars. Secretary Mattis has my full support to move forward with a block buy for the next two Ford-class carriers.”

In addition to Wicker, Kaine, and Warner, the letter was signed by Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Patty Murray (D-WA), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Tim Scott (R-SC), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Luther Strange (R-AL), and Thom Tillis (R-NC).

The letter reads in full:

Dear Secretary Mattis,

As you continue preparation of the Fiscal Year 2019 Budget Request for the Department of Defense, we write to express our support for the block buy of Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carriers.  It is our understanding that the Navy and industry have been evaluating the feasibility of block-buy for CVN-80 and CVN-81, as well as the potential cost savings from such a procurement strategy.  We applaud the Department of Defense’s efforts to examine smarter and more efficient acquisition approaches and would actively support the Department’s pursuit of a block buy of Ford-class aircraft carriers in Fiscal Year 2019.

Previous block-buys have yielded savings of several percent of the total cost of the ships when compared to annual procurements, which could be in excess of $1 billion for two Ford-class carriers. Total savings could grow to something closer to $2 billion if the procurement intervals between the ships are additionally shortened from five-year centers to three- or four-year centers, which would be consistent with the Navy's goal of achieving and maintaining the 12-carrier force called for in the Navy's 355-ship requirement.

In light of the increased budgetary demands placed on the Department, we believe that revisiting a proven acquisition method, one that could be executed without reducing funding for other vital shipbuilding programs, is not only warranted, but a sound investment. 

As recent events in the Pacific have shown, our nation's carrier fleet is under considerable demand, with 3 of 11 deployed and 7 of 11 carriers underway in recent weeks.  A block-buy of Ford-class will help the Navy achieve its objective of 12 carriers that better meets combatant commander requirements and readiness goals to sustain worldwide operations.  Additionally, a block-buy would continue to signal to the shipbuilding industrial base about our nation’s resolve to field a 355-ship fleet.  Over the past 25 years, our shipbuilding industrial base has undergone a massive consolidation.  The community, which used to tap into more than 17,000 suppliers now relies on fewer than 3,000 across the country. These remaining suppliers would significantly benefit from the predictability and stability of a known future workload.  We believe the stability offered by a block-buy approach would enable suppliers to develop greater efficiencies and invest in their own businesses, which would further benefit other Navy shipbuilding programs as well.

At the forefront of today’s Navy is the Nimitz class carrier and Virginia-class submarine, both of which are successful products of block-buy type initiatives.  As we look to the next 50 years, we believe a wise investment of our precious defense dollars would be in the time-proven acquisition method of block-buy for our next generation of aircraft carrier. Thank you for your consideration and service to our country.

Click here to view a copy of the signed letter.

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