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U.S. Navy Delays Buying More Frigates Until They Know How To Build Them

The Navy will delay purchasing new frigates by at least a year to “ensure designs are mature” before spending billions on ships with untested capabilities, the service announced Wednesday.

The Navy intends to award the initial contract for the new frigates in fiscal year 2020, a year later than initially planned, Rear Admiral John Neagley, the littoral program executive officer, Rear Admiral Ron Boxall, the Navy’s surface warfare chief, said in a hearing of the House Committee on Armed Services’ Subcommittee on Seapower Wednesday.

The Government Accountability Office recommended April 18 that Congress should delay spending $9 billion on the program for 12 new frigates until the Navy had better plan for how to design the ships.

“The Navy’s revised acquisition strategy is under development and will ensure designs are mature prior to entering into a detailed design and construction contract,” Boxall and Neagley said in a joint statement.

The Navy will work with private companies to “support an aggressive conceptual design effort, leading to a request for proposals to award” the design and construction contract in the 2020 fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1, 2019.

Shipbuilders Lockheed Martin and Austal currently build two different versions of the littoral combat ship, which have been criticized as a boondoggle for repeated schedule delays, significant cost overruns, and their failure to stay afloat.

The GAO said the Navy’s decision to push back the contract to fiscal year 2020 “is a change in the frigate’s acquisition strategy that is consistent with our recommendations to gather more information on the ship’s design, cost, and capabilities prior to awarding a contract,” Michele Mackin, a GAO director who prepared the April report told Bloomberg News.

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