Virginia Class Sub Program Wins Acquisition Award
The SSN-774 Virginia Class submarine was introduced in the 1990s as a Clinton-era reform that was intended to take some of the SSN-21 Seawolf Class’ key design and technology advances, and place them in a smaller, less heavily-armed, and less expensive platform. The resulting submarine would have learned some of the Seawolf program’s negative procurement lessons, while performing capably in land attack, naval attack, special forces, and shallow water roles. In the end, the Seawolf Class became a technology demonstrator program that was canceled at 3 ships, and the Virginia Class became the naval successor to America’s famed SSN-688 Los Angeles Class. The Virginia Class program was supposed to reach 2 submarines per year by 2002, removing it from the unusual joint construction approach between General Dynamics Electric Boat and Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding – but that goal has been pushed back to 2012 in progressive planning budgets.
In FY 2005 dollars, SSN-21 submarines cost between $3.1-3.5 billion each. According to Congressional Research Service report #RL32418, and the Navy is working toward a goal of shaving FY05$ 400 million from the cost of each Virginia Class boat, and buying 2 boats in FY2012 for combined cost of $4.0 billion in FY 2005 dollars – a goal referred to as “2 for 4 in 12”. In real dollars subject to inflation, that means about $2.6 billion per sub in 2012, and $2.7 billion in 2013. The Navy believes that moving from the current joint construction arrangement will shave FY05$ 200 million from the cost of each submarine, leaving another FY05$ 200 million (about $220 million) to be saved through ship design and related changes. “Virginia Block III: The Revised Bow” chronicles some of the significant cost-saving design changes underway to the Virginia Class Block 3 subs, which begin at SSN-784, the 11th ship of class.
How is the program doing? The good news is, they just won a major procurement award for their efforts…
Nov 5/08: The Virginia Class nuclear fast attack submarine Program Office receives the 2008 David Packard Excellence in Acquisition Award during a ceremony at Fort Belvoir, VA. This marks the third time (1996, 1998, 2008) that the Virginia Class Program Office has earned the award. The Virginia Class Program was recognized for excelling in 4 specific areas: reducing life-cycle costs; making the acquisition system more efficient, responsive, and timely; integrating defense with the commercial base and practices; and promoting continuous improvement of the acquisition process.
The program office reduced life-cycle costs by shortening the submarines’ time in the shipyard and delivering submarines ahead of schedule, while concurrently applying best-value analysis to create more than 150 discrete design changes and production improvements. During fiscal year 2007, 33 process improvement events were conducted, resulting in an estimated realized savings of $60.6 million per ship; in October 2007, a joint Navy-shipbuilder LEAN Six Sigma event worked to continue that momentum. The Virginia Class program also saved $72 million by removing the requirement for full-ship shock testing based on technical merit – a first for a major weapons system.
By the end of 2007, construction performance initiatives achieved $89.9 million savings per ship, and design for cost reduction initiatives saved an additional $84.2 million per ship (TL = $174.1 million). Since 2005, the program has reduced its overall cost by $4 billion. See also: US Navy release.