The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee sharply criticized the Navy's failures with the new USS Gerald R. Ford aircraft carrier, saying that these missteps “ought to be criminal.”
During the confirmation hearing for Vice Adm. Michael Gilday, who is set to become the next chief of naval operations, Sen. Jim Inhofe, a Republican from Oklahoma, unleashed a string of criticisms about the first ship of the Navy's Ford-class carriers.
“The ship was accepted by the Navy incomplete, nearly two years late, two and a half billion dollars over budget, and nine of eleven weapons still don't work with costs continuing to grow,” the senator said.
“The Ford was awarded to a sole-source contractor,” which was asked to incorporate immature technologies “that had next to no testing, had never been integrated on a ship — a new radar, catapult, arresting gear, and the weapons elevators,” he continued, adding that the Navy entered into this contract “without understanding the technical risk, the cost, or the schedules.”
“This ought to be criminal,” he said, further criticizing what he called the Navy's “arrogance.”
The cost of the USS Gerald R. Ford, according to the latest report to Congress, has ballooned to just over $13 billion, well over budget, and when the ship completes post-sea trial maintenance and is returned to the fleet in October — it was initially supposed to return in July but was delayed — it still won't be working properly.
Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer bet his job on a promise to President Trump that the advanced weapons elevators would be ready to go by the end of the current maintenance period, but the Navy has already said that is not going to happen.
Only a handful of the advanced weapons elevators, a critical internal system required to move weapons to the flight deck, increase aircraft sortie rates and increase the overall lethality of the ship will be operational when the USS Gerald R. Ford returns to the fleet this fall.
The Navy has had to call in outside experts to try to find a solution to this particular problem.
Gilday, who was asked to comment seeing that this issue “is going to be dumped in your lap,” as the senator explained, assured Inhofe that if he is confirmed as the Navy's next top admiral, he will push the service to ensure that taxpayer dollars are not wasted.
“I share your concern,” he told the senator, explaining that the current status is unacceptable. “We need all 11 elevators working in order to give us the kind of redundancy and combat readiness that the American taxpayer has invested in this ship.”
“We've had 23 new technologies introduced on that ship,” he added. “Of those, four were immature when we commissioned Ford in 2017. We have seen progress in the launching system, the arresting gear and also with the dual-band radar. The reliability of those systems is trending in the right direction and actually where we want to be based on the last at-sea testing.”
Gilday characterized the elevators as the last remaining “hurdle” to getting the Ford out to sea.
He assured lawmakers that the Navy will take the lessons of the Ford and apply them to not only all future Ford-class carriers, but also the Columbia-class ballistic missile submarines.
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