U.S. Navy's DD(X) Program Under Fire

U.S. Congressional Budget Office analyst Michael Gilmore told members of the House Armed Services Projections Subcommittee that the price of the first new DD(X) destroyer could be up to $4.7 billion.

This figure is even higher than the $4 to $4.5 billion that Pentagon officials had projected. "It seems to me we've got a dilemma. Who do we go to in order to find out what a fair estimate of the cost would be?" said subcommittee member Jim Marshall, a Democrat from Georgia, in response to the conflicting cost estimates.

Escalating costs of the program prompted the full House Armed Services Committee to propose capping the program at $1.7 billion, and several military and financial analysts to speculate whether the new ship is needed at all.

The Defense Department's top weapons buyer, Kenneth Krieg, told the subcommittee on Tuesday the DD(X) destroyer was needed to deal with future military threats and would cost less to operate in the long run than the older DDG destroyers.

Northrop Grumman Corp., with a shipyard in Pascagoula, Mississippi, has had a leading design role in the DD(X) program. Production is to be split with General Dynamics Corp.'s shipyard in Bath, Maine.

The Navy wants to acquire 8 to 12 DD(X) ships but escalating costs have become a major concern. The Navy projects the first DD(X) will cost $3.3 billion, with an average cost of $2.6 billion per copy.

In May, the full House Armed Services Committee proposed capping at $1.7 billion the cost of the DD(X), roughly half of the Navy's projection for the first ships. Executives from Northrop, General Dynamics, and other defense contractors testified that the DD(X) program was well-managed and that all efforts were being taken to cut costs.

However, military and financial analysts expressed doubts about whether the increased firepower and stealth capability of the DD(X) were really necessary and said the military should investigate building a scaled-down version of the new warship.

Gilmore, of the Congressional Budget Office, disputed Pentagon assertions that the DD(X) destroyer would be cheaper to operate over the long term.

A senior analyst at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments said the Navy already had overwhelming firepower to launch ship-based missile attacks. The military could integrate many of the new capabilities of the DD(X) into a smaller ship and build it at both the Mississippi and Maine shipyards.