DD (X) Program Passes Review, But Opposition & Reports Cloud Future
The DD (X) National Team, led by Northrop Grumman Corporation and Raytheon Company, in partnership with General Dynamics, BAE Systems and Lockheed Martin, has successfully completed the initial critical design review for the overall system design for the DD (X) multi-mission destroyer. The engineering development models are elements of the Navy’s risk-reduction strategy for the Flight 1 ship design. This milestone event demonstrated that the program is ready for the Flag-level review in September, and that the DD (X) Flight 1 system design is complete, stable and mature enough to enter detail design. Nevertheless, major program issues remain.
The DD (X) program’s roughest waters are likely to be political. The DD (X) National Team has successfully completed nearly a dozen incremental design review milestones. Nevertheless, recent Congressional testimony from the CBO and GAO indicates that cost estimates have risen from $1 billion to $3.2 billion average per ship, ship life cycle costs are likely to be about double that of the DDG 51 Arleigh Burk Class ($4 Billion vs. $2.1 billion), further cost increases are possible, and technical project risks remain. Congressional scrutiny and interference, proposed funding cost caps per ship, a shrinking force request (from 32 originally to 10, which affects per-ship cost) and consideration of reactivating battleships as alternative ground support options are also part of the controversy surrounding the program.
DD (X) is also approaching Milestone B – a key remaining decision point that will shape the future of both the program and the Navy itself.
The testimony of the Congressional Budget Office’s Assistant Director for National Security J. Michael Gilmore focused on the cost of the DD (X) program, both in first-ship terms and with respect to lifecycle costs. Many of its key conclusions are recapped above, and DID offers a link to the full report in our “Additional Readings” section.
On the same day, GAO director of acquisition and sourcing management Paul L. Francis recapped their report re: ten key technologies on which the DD (X) design is based, and cautioned against over-optimistic assumptions that they will remain on schedule.
In light of the risks framed by the program’s challenges, Francis suggests that decision makers should consider potential trade-offs in advance, including accepting reduced mission performance, increased costs, delayed shipyard work, and/or additional manning instead of the current automaton route. The palatability of these trade-offs, he says, should be considered now, before initial ship construction is authorized by the end of this fiscal year.
In light of the significant cost penalties that changing requirements added to the first LPD-17 San Antonio Class amphibious assault dock ship (over $800 million), this would appear to be a wise suggestion. It will certainly be necessary if the House’s proposed $1.7 billion average cost cap per ship survives reconciliation with the Senate budget bill.
The DD (X) program has also been a recent target of criticism from NGO lobby groups:
The Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW) questioned the priority being put on the DD (X) program, given other operational needs. They also noted that Ronald T. Kadish, a former director of the Missile Defense Agency, concluded that the Pentagon cannot afford more than 60 of its 80 new major programs.
Meanwhile, the National Taxpayers Union (NTU) has expressed concerns about spending 30-40% of the Navy’s shipbuilding budget on this one class, at reduced numbers from what was originally envisioned, despite so many cost increases to date in the program, as the Navy’s shrinking number of ships becomes an issue.
In response, the Chief of Naval Operations lobbied strongly in favor of the DD (X) Program during his recent Congressional testimony. Capabilities that DD (X) hopes to bring to the fleet if technological components etc. perform as envisioned include a 10-fold improved capability against anti-ship cruise missiles, 10 times the operating area in shallow water regions against mines, and improved naval surface fire coverage. Yet one of the most critical capabilities DD (X) will have is a 50-fold radar cross section reduction. “If you’re an adversary of the United States of America,” said the CNO, “looking for a DD (X) will be like looking for the proverbial needle in an American haystack… the enemy’s going to have to be sucked into our network to ever find out who we are.”
Additional Readings & Sources
- United Defense, LP – Advanced Gun System
- US Government Accountability Office GAO-05-924T (July 28/05) –
- Congressional Budget Office Doc #6561 (July 19/05) – The Navy’s DD (X) Destroyer Program. Statement of Assistant Director for National Security J. Michael Gilmore before the House Committee on Armed Services, Subcommittee on Projection Forces. It’s worth looking at their methodology for calculating program costs, and the conclusions they’ve come to.
- US Government Accountability Office GAO-05-752R (June 14/05) – Progress of the DD (X) Destroyer Program [PDF]. Report to the Senate Committee on Armed Services, Subcommittee on Seapower; and the House Committee on Armed Services, Subcommittee on Projection Forces.