13 août 2020 | International, Naval

Shipyards Not At Risk, Despite DoD Warning It Needs $$ To Save Them

A DoD paper for Congress suggests COVID could shut down shipyards, but Navy officials and analysts say there is little risk.

By   on August 12, 2020 at 4:04 PM

WASHINGTON: A top Navy official today tried to clarify a Pentagon information paper leaked last week which warned that “at least one” of the seven shipyards that churns out ships for the Navy could close unless Congress handed over billions more to the service.

As part of an $11 billion package the Pentagon is requesting from Congress to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on the defense industry, the Navy is requesting $4.7 billion in part to ward off the chances “at least one” of the big seven shipyards shutting down. The paper, which has been delivered to lawmakers on Capitol Hill, also warned of over 100,000 lost jobs across shipyards and factories that make aircraft and other weapons for the military.

But the Navy’s top acquisition executive told reporters today that the wording continued in the paper might leave too much out.

“The words could be taken out of context,” James Geurts said. “There probably should be the word ‘temporarily’ in there.” If a shipyard started to see a significant portion of its workforce test positive for COVID, “we might have to temporarily close down the shipyard for a period of time until we got it under control. Not that we would have to shut down a shipyard permanently.”

The memo contains no such caveats, however. It flatly states a shipyard could close unless the Navy gets the funding boost.

Asked where the paper came from, and who it was intended for, DoD spokesman Christopher Sherwood told me via email the department “provided informational material to our oversight committees when asked about the impacts COVID-19 has had on the Defense Industrial Base and our suppliers.”

The Navy has gone to great lengths to help its shipyards weather the COVID storm, pumping $130 billion into its supplier base this year in upfront payments, spending that is 25% higher than at this point last year.

But some yards have experienced pain keeping to schedule, with uncertain futures ahead as the Navy looks to change its fleet mix in the coming years to better compete with China and Russia.  

Mark Cancian, a defense expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, acknowledged that all Navy shipyards “have a backlog of work, including Bath Iron Works, which was the subject of speculation about closing.” Bath, already six months behind on building seven destroyers in dock, is stumbling to the conclusion of a six-week strike by 4,300 shipbuilders which will likely make those delays even longer.

Likewise, the Mississippi-based Austal is looking at the end of the road for its contract to build dozens of aluminum Littoral Combat Ships in a few years, which would likely mark the end of the Navy’s interest in buying aluminum hulls. That shipyard “would be at more risk” Cancian said.

Neither shipyard is any worse off than the others due to COVID-related shutdowns, however, making the Pentagon’s point that yards could shut and require COVID relief funds to keep going, an argument that finds few adherents.

There’s little doubt COVID is slowing down both ship construction and repair, “but that doesn’t mean the Navy doesn’t need the ships anymore,” said Bryan Clark of the Hudson Institute. “It just means everything takes longer, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that the shipyards are going to close.”

Clark noted that while Bath is in a bad spot with delays to its destroyer work that will be compounded by the strike, the Navy still needs it to build destroyers in the future, since relying on Huntington Ingalls as the nation’s only shipyard that can build the ships is too risky.

Add to that the likelihood that the Navy will move toward buying more numerous small cruisers, unmanned ships, and smaller platforms for Marines and away from  small numbers of large destroyers and amphibious ships in the future, means there will be more contracts, and work to go around later this decade.

The service is still on track to deliver its much-delayed 30 year shipbuilding plan and force structure assessment this fall, in which several options like a new class of destroyers, a new class of smaller frigates, and smaller hospital ships will all likely find their way into the plans.


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  • British Defence Ministry reveals why a drone program now costs $427M extra

    27 janvier 2020 | International, Aérospatial

    British Defence Ministry reveals why a drone program now costs $427M extra

    By: Sebastian Sprenger  Correction: A previous version of this story misidentified the cost increase to Britain’s Protector acquisition program. The program is said to now cost an extra £325 million, with £187 million of that attributed to a delivery delay. LONDON — The British Defence Ministry’s top civilian has identified in a letter to lawmakers the reasons why a drone acquisition program has experienced a near 40 percent hike in costs. The Ministry of Defence decided to delay by two years the delivery of 16 General Atomic Protector RG Mk1 drones to replace the Royal Air Force’s MQ-9 Reaper fleet, the letter to Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee said. Stephen Lovegrove, the ministry’s permanent secretary, cited that decision as the main reason for the £325 million (U.S. $427 million) cost increase to the program, as £187 million of that could be attributed to the delay. “The cost growth and time delay to the program imposed in July 2017 were outside of program tolerances but were the result of the need to ensure the affordability of the overall defence program,” Lovegrove wrote in his letter. The MoD is currently in negotiations with the U.S. over a deal to build the first three of the 16 Protectors scheduled to be purchased for the RAF. The final number of vehicles on order could eventually expand beyond 16 — subject to the MoD’s fragile finances in the coming years unless defense gets a sizable increase in the Conservative government’s next budget round due later this year. The letter was sent Nov. 5 but has only recently been made public. Lovegrove detailed further causes of the cost increase rise in the drone program, which was expected to cost £816 million when it was approved by the MoD in 2016. Aside from the increased costs caused by the delay, the letter said that the fall in the value of the pound against the dollar accounted for £50.8 million of the price rise, and a new primary sensor cost another £64 million. Other unspecified program costs accounted for a further £23 million. The pound has firmed up against the dollar a little since the Conservative Party won the general election in December, which may lessen the impact of increased costs for the moment. The new primary sensor investment involves provision of an improved electro-optical and infrared sensor. The letter said the investment was to avoid future obsolescence issues. Consideration is still being given to the purchase of what is known as a “due regard air-to-air radar” designed for vital detect-and-avoid duties on the platform. 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The 2-year delay and resultant cost increase have not undermined this value for money case ... it remains affordable despite the cost growth,” the permanent secretary added. Lovegrove said the biggest problem for the Protector program was not the platform itself but the availability of trained crew in the run-up to initial operating capability. “The most significant risk to the Protector program is the RAF’s ability to generate and sustain the volume of trained personnel necessary to assure IOC in Nov 2023. The Protector work force builds on the current Reaper force; training and retaining sufficient remotely piloted aircraft system crews has historically proved challenging and is being closely monitored,” the letter said. The Protector is expected to fly longer and hit harder than the Reaper. 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  • US Army cuts current vehicle fleet to make way for next-gen tech

    29 mars 2019 | International, Terrestre

    US Army cuts current vehicle fleet to make way for next-gen tech

    By: Jen Judson  Update: This story has been updated to reflect correct procurement numbers for the Armored Multipurpose Vehicle (AMPV). WASHINGTON — The U.S. Army has telegraphed its plans to terminate 93 programs and truncate another 93to make room for next-generation technology under ambitious and rapid modernization plans, and the first major programs to feel the ax blows in the next five years are vehicles in the current fleet. According to fiscal 2020 budget request documents released March 12, the service plans to cut back on upgrade plans for its Bradley Fighting Vehicle program, an aging platform in the fleet currently unable to effectively support technology like active protection systems. But the Army is also planning to cut not-so-legacy systems as well — the Armored Multipurpose Vehicle (AMPV) built by BAE Systems and the Oshkosh-manufactured Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) — that recently replaced legacy systems, Army Comptroller Lt. Gen. Thomas Horlander said during a March 12 budget briefing with reporters at the Pentagon. The service has not reached a full-rate production decision for the JLTV. That was pushed back from December 2018 to May 2019 due to new plans to alter the vehicles — to include larger windows and the addition of a muffler — based on soldier feedback. And the first prototype for AMPV — the M113 personnel carrier replacement — rolled off the line in 2016. The budget documents lay out the Army’s FY20 plans to cut Bradley A4 upgrade plans from 167 vehicles to 128. The plan is to procure five more sets of Bradley A4 vehicles with one going to pre-positioned stock in Europe and the other four replacing the oldest sets of Bradleys. Then the program will stop around 2023 to make way for the Next-Generation Combat Vehicle, or NGCV, according to Lt. Gen. James Pasquarette, the Army’s G-8 chief. Although the Bradley will be curtailed, Pasquarette noted that its funding in FY20 was up 37 percent from last year at $639 million. While the Army — as of last year — planned to buy 3,035 JLTVs, it now plans to purchase just 2,530 of the vehicles in FY20. Army Under Secretary Ryan McCarthy told an audience at the McAleese & Associates and Credit Suisse Defense Programs conference in Washington on Wednesday that the service would stop at five brigades of Bradley A4 vehicles. That decision, he said, would sync with an investment increase for the NGCV expected in 2023 and beyond. And while the Army plans to decrease JLTV buys in 2020, cuts will likely not stop there. McCarthy said the Army is looking to lower the requirement for JLTVs and could soon be locking in a new top-line requirement number. Yet, Pasquarette also said at the McAleese conference that the top-line requirement would not change for the JLTV but would just be pushed to the right. McCarthy added that cutting the fleet of JLTVs was justified because the Army has a wealth of vehicles, from 55,000 Humvees, and 49,000 more JLTVs and another 800 Infantry Squad Vehicles planned. “We clearly have more capability than we need,” he said. The AMPV buy holds steady in FY20 at 131 vehicles. The FY19 plan shows the Army wanted to buy 130 vehicles. The five-year plan has yet to be released by the Army, but it’s likely to show a decline in AMPV buys following FY20. Pasquarette said the AMPV top-line requirement remains unchanged, but the service was simply slowing the procurement rate per year. The cuts to current programs were made following painstaking deliberations among Army leadership over the course of last year in a forum dubbed “night court.” Through the process, the service measured current capability against its contribution to increasing capability in a modern, more lethal Army, and it terminated or truncated programs that didn’t fit the bill. Pasquarette noted that the programs that were fully terminated were small ones that did not contribute to the lethality of the future force. Some of the bigger programs were slowed such as the vehicle programs. Overall, the Army moved an additional $3.6 billion into modernization funding accounts in FY20 over last year’s levels — planning to spend $8.6 billion on programs that get after a more modern force. And across the five-year budget plan, the service moved an additional $32 billion to fund modernization efforts beyond what was planned in FY19 for a total of $57 billion. The Army isn’t cutting or slowing all of its legacy vehicle systems, Pasquarette noted. The Stryker Double V-Hull (DVH-configuration combat vehicles) will get $550 million per year over the next five years to outfit a half of a Stryker brigade combat team annually. The Abrams tank will receive $1.7 billion in FY20 funding, a 64 percent increase over last year, Pasquarette added. https://www.defensenews.com/smr/federal-budget/2019/03/13/us-army-cuts-current-vehicle-fleet-to-make-way-for-next-gen-tech/

  • Pentagon’s Second Multibillion Cloud Contract to Be Bid in Coming Months

    11 juin 2018 | International, C4ISR

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