Home » Budget Industry » Navy Under Secretary Nominee Davidson Fields Ford Carrier Concerns During Confirmation Hearing


Navy Under Secretary Nominee Davidson Fields Ford Carrier Concerns During Confirmation Hearing

The nominee for the Navy’s number two civilian post told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday that she shares its concerns with the cost overruns and delays in the delivery of the Fordclass nuclear aircraft carrier and was “open to all options” in considering alternatives.

Under Secretary of the navy nominee Janine Davidson. Council of Foreign Relations Photo

Under Secretary of the navy nominee Janine Davidson. Council of Foreign Relations Photo

In answer to a question about problems with the General Atomics Advanced Arresting Gear on the Fordclass carrier at her confirmation hearing, Janine Davidson said that it was critically important in “making sure your advanced technology . . . is ready to go.”

Sen. John McCain, (R-Ariz.) and chairman, said, “To be honest we have not seen any progress” in controlling costs and speeding delivery of these ships.

The Fiscal Year 2016 National Defense Authorization Act calls for the Navy to study the Ford class and possible alternatives to contain costs and deliver vessels more quickly.

With a year left in the Obama administration’s term in office, Davidson said the Ohioclass ballistic missile submarine was her top priority, as well as the Navy’s, and she would work with the panel in looking for ways to pay for it outside of the Navy’s regular shipbuilding budget.

In addition, she said she was committed to the Navy’s plan to build two Virginia-class submarines annually.

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (Nov. 17, 2013) – Pre-Commissioning Unit Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) transits the James River during the ship’s launch and transit to Newport News Shipyard pier three for the final stages of construction and testing. The Ford was christened Nov. 9, 2013, and is currently under construction at Huntington Ingalls Industries Newport News Shipyard (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Second Class Aidan P. Campbell/Released)

Pre-Commissioning Unit Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) transits the James River in 2013. US Navy Photo

As to priorities, she said, “We have to reset and think about modernizing for the future” at the same time as the Navy and Marine Corps need to improve its readiness—starting with necessary maintenance.

Davidson said the nation was at risk of losing military dominance if the tight fiscal constraints on defense spending continue. She said she was “trying to determine what we mean when we say we’re accepting more risk” under those fiscal conditions.

In her opening statement, she said her goal, if confirmed, is “was to restore readiness across the Fleet” and sustain the United States’ military edge.

Davidson said the lack of a proper audit “exacerbates our problems” in gaining a true picture on program costs. She said that while the Navy department is making some progress in this area it has a long way to go.

Looking at personnel issues and streamlining, she said would “take a data driven approach” when looking at reducing staff sizes. Later, Davidson answered a related question by saying, “all our processes should be looked at” in terms of how they affect the warfighter.

She called suicides in the military “an absolute tragedy” and said the focus on prevention needs to come through continuing education of commanders, peers and chaplains.

Citing her own experience—being the first woman in the Air Force to fly C-17s in a combat role—Davidson said she would “absolutely NOT . . . lower standards” in opening all positions to women in the military even if only a few initially qualified.

As to whether women should be required to register for the Selective Service, she and the other nominees for service undersecretary posts said, “I look forward to engaging with you in that discussion.”

McCain said, while chuckling, “You all three have successfully dodged the question,” referring to Davidson and the two other nominees at the hearing.

  • Curtis Conway

    It is time to fund and build four (4) more USS America LHA-6 Large Deck Aviation Platforms, while the US Navy and Newport News figures this out over the next couple of years. The LHA-6 (without the well deck) is less expensive and mature, where we can build all four for a little more than the cost of a Ford Class Carrier, and we get the aviation platform numbers up quick (relatively).

    • sferrin

      How about no. The absolute last thing we need is politicians thinking an LHA-6 is a CVN. And they will.

      • Curtis Conway

        An LHA-6 IS NOT a CVN, and Congress knows that. However, the F-35 Combat System is a synergistic element in warfare, specifically naval warfare, not just air warfare (NIFC-CA). The only technology we lack to make that work is a VSTOL/STOVL AEW platform and the Royal Navy can help us with that problem. The Expeditionary Strike Group will be a force with which to contend, and will not be ignored . . . and for the cost of a CVN+ we can be in four places at once.

        • Secundius

          @ Curtis Conway.

          Just EXACTLY how is the Royal Navy to Provide AEW Assets. When there’s NO Aircraft Carrier’s in a Expeditionary Strike Group…

          • johnbull

            LHA-6 and the others like her aren’t designed to project power, but just to support landing operations. She costs much less than a CVN, but how much would be required to make her faster enough and give her more defensive ability?

          • Secundius

            @ johnbull.

            America, was never designed to exceed 22-knots. If you going to BUILD a Light or Medium Aircraft Carrier, then DESIGN One that will Do The Job. Instead of trying to Modify a Ship, that was NEVER Meant to do the JOB. There are Plenty of US Designed Light and Medium Aircraft Carrier Blueprints of Designs, that were NEVER Built. Just Update them, and Use Them…

          • Curtis Conway

            A STOVL/VSTOL Carrier does not have to go fast with respect to wind across the deck. Resetting from one region to another requires some speed, and they do just fine right now. Judging an LHA-6 light carrier based upon CVN metrics is a non-starter, because it is not being proposed to take the place of one. It provides 5th generation aviation assets in support of SOF, Presence Operations, and Humanitarian Operations in support of our foreign policy. I wish one was in the middle of the South China Sea right now. If more fire power is needed along comes a full CVW with the CSGs. In the mean time we purchase 3-4 fine large deck aviation platforms that can be in as many places providing 5th generation aviation support for most of the cost of one Ford Class CVN.

          • Secundius

            @ Curtis Conway.

            Why are you trying to Midway modify a Essex/America class Gator-Freighter. We’re suppose to”Learn from or Mistakes, NOT repeat them Over and Over Again”…

          • Curtis Conway

            The Midway was NOT a VSTOL/STOVL aircraft carrier. The comparison is ludicrous. No aviation platform to operate like the LHA-6 Light Carrier variant will require an angle deck. I must admit I did see one design that had an LHA layout to port with a shallow angle deck to starboard ans superstructure amid ship that looked interesting, but again . . . industry would turn it into a multi-billion dollar boondoggle over a decade and and just milk the system. We need something now that can provide presence & combat power, and again, the only thing it really needs is AEW, and that solution has been provided too. Electronic attack will come in time, via increased future capability in the F-35.

          • Secundius

            @ Curtis Conway.

            And WHY do we need a 45,000-ton Light Aircraft Carrier with (22-Aircraft’s), WHEN a 17,166-ton Light Aircraft Carrier with (29-Aircraft’s) can do it better…

          • Curtis Conway

            Because a US shipyard cannot build it quickly without a long development period. The LHA-6 design is mature and ready TODAY at a specific and well defined cost, and construction periodicity.

          • Secundius

            @ Curtis Conway.

            What Long Development Time? The Light Carrier in Question is ALREADY Designed and It is an American Design, too. It was know as Design SCS-75 or Sea Control Ship Design 1975. More Recently Known as the R.11, SPS. Principe de Asturias…

          • Curtis Conway

            Secundius, have you ever been a member of a ship construction program? Have you ever spent any time in a shipyard? Have you ever walked through the passages of a vessel under construction, particularly something brand new?

            The design you would like has not been produced in the US by any existing talent pool. Once metal is cut and ark goes to steel, everyone in the program begins to leave there mark on the construction. That purist will do what the drawing says once work is underway, and we march along the Plan of Action & Milestones, the Prime is under contract to do exactly that. The Program Manager who wants to leave a mark (particularly in a program such as we discuss) will begin to sponsor changes. Throw in a politician or two’s support, and now we have added at least half a year if not a year to the production. Do several variations on a theme in the design changes, a billion or two in schedule changes, and you have a decade at least.

            A mature design off the line is well understood and can be produced as advertised. Costs, materials, time, and talent pool well understood, in place, and can be guaranteed.

            The USS Ticonderoga (CG-47) was constructed in the time it was (and most every one there after) because we had a solid design (DD-963 with all the bells and whistles ,that had been built on the yards) and changes were by necessity, few as they were. AND then we put it in the water . . . and that is a whole different story. No, we need something coming off the yards now with a known cost and timeline.

          • Secundius

            @ Conway Curtis.

            I’m sure that Spain would be MORE THEN HAPPY to Build them for use, and Update the Design, too. For FAR CHEAPER, then our (US) Shipyards can produce them…

          • Curtis Conway

            Perhaps, but as I believe is policy and you have so astutely observed in the past they must be built here. Otherwise we would buy destroyers from Japan and South Korea.

          • Secundius

            @ Curtis Conway.

            Newport News Shipyards, Builds Large Nuclear-Powered Aircraft Carriers! How difficult wold it be for them to Build a Light Aircraft Carrier FIVE times Smaller and EIGHT times Cheaper than a Nimitz/Ford. And it’s not even Nuclear-Powered, or EVEN Huntington-Ingalls…

          • publius_maximus_III

            @ Secundius

            I actually toured the Essex while she was docked in NYC in the mid-1960’s. If I recall correctly, she carried Neptunes and sub-chaser type aircraft with high intensity lamps on the wings that were kept in constant motion to avoid burning through the clear Plexiglas domes. Not an amphibious support aircraft carrier that I recall, at least at that time. Or am I thinking of a different Navy vessel?

          • publius_maximus_III

            Correction, both the Neptunes and Orions were land-based subchasing patrol aircraft, not carrier based. It must have been Tracker ASW aircraft I saw on the Essex during that 1960’s visit — they ARE capable of carrier landings and takeoffs.

          • old guy

            Almost exactly correct, BUT 35 knots is not that hard to attain and allows bigger A/C payloads. I have flown an doubled range Sea Harrier, jump take off from the 16,000 ton Spanish “Principe de Asturias”, What a kick.

          • Secundius

            @ old guy.

            Replace the Single Screw Shaft, with a “Mermaid” Azipod instead…

          • Curtis Conway

            Our Marine F-35s will get to do that with the Australians I bet.

          • old guy

            Brilliant and CORRECT. During my time as Dir. R&D (SEA003) we designed a 120 kt SES, a 24,ooo ton jump deck attack carrier, that worked with a big deck for its A/C maintenance needs and a 45K ton LCAC/Air carrier. All were rejected by the “fixed” carrier study for the dumbest reasons (REAL REASON. “You can’t make flag of a small ship command”)

          • tpharwell

            How much power does a fleet of 8-10 CVNs project with 4 undergoing maintenance, two assigned to home waters, one in transit, and the rest within missile range of any target ?

          • Curtis Conway

            The UK Royal Navy’s Merlin Mk2 Crowsnest airborne early warning (AEW) can operate off of a frigate, the HMS Queen Elizabeth, so it can sure operate off of an LHA flight deck. It will replace the Westland Sea King AEW.2A soon. We should just participate in the program. Great for joint operations. In addition we can learn a lot for our own version.

          • Secundius

            @ Curtis Conway.

            What it comes down to? Is weather or not the British Actually Participate or weather WE ASK, them too.

            Oh, Crowsnest can operate from an Osprey too, as an AESA Modular Pallet Loaded Radar System…

          • Curtis Conway

            Love the idea. Let’s make it happen.

          • Secundius

            @ Curtis Conway.

            WE ALREADY HAVE, on one of the “Many” V-22 Osprey USNI Forums…

        • sferrin

          An LHA-6 is much less survivable. Much slower. Much less versatile. Consider, at best, it can support 20 F-35s. One Ford could support four LHA-6s of F-35s AND support aircraft. The standard airwing during the Cold War was about 90 aircraft. Furthermore, the LHA-6 can’t support ANY fixed wing aircraft except the F-35. No AWACS (there goes your overhead cover). No CEC. No tankers or Growlers. The LHA-6 route is just bad all the way around.

          • publius_maximus_III

            I don’t know this for a fact, but I would guess maintenance of an F-35B would be about twice that of an F-35C, due to the extra mechanical features for a diverter. So, should we trade in the costlier, more sophisticated carriers needed by the F-35C for a more complex aircraft? That seems to be the economics at work here.

            Still, the F-35B can land in more places than the F-35C while still handling the same missions of an F-35C. That, plus having more smaller carriers avoids the problem of having all our aviation eggs in one basket (for a single ASM to find).

            But I’m sure our nation’s think tanks have this all figured out.

          • tpharwell

            I forget. How many F-35Bs are the Navy and Marine Corps signed up for ? And how many ships will they have to fly them from ? Has that been figured out ?

    • Secundius

      @ Curtis Conway.

      GET IT THROUGH YOUR “THICK” SKULL. Average Build Time for an America class is ~3-years. A “PROPER” Purpose Built Medium Carrier can be Built it that Time Frame…

      • Curtis Conway

        I’ll admit my skull is thick, but you have a lot of convincing before you will convince me that an unknown new build platform will take the same time as a know and mature platform. We are experiencing that at present with the Ford Class.

      • Curtis Conway

        Your new designed carrier will be turned into a multi-billion dollar, decade long fiasco, insisted upon by those who will change the design every six months. The LHA-6 is mature and ready TODAY. We need the platforms today. Comparison to the F-35 Bird-farm with anything that has transpired before is irrelevant, because the F-35B Combat System and unique capabilities, make it so. For those who are stuck in the past, like the Battleship Admirals of old, and CSG only Admirals today, must make way for the new thing. The capabilities of the F-35 Combat System in the compelling element in this argument. We have been negligent in developing the rest of the Expeditionary Strike Group’s resources like AEW. That resource is available to day, and can be improved/replaced in the future.

  • Secundius

    I wonder if there’s a Connection between the Delay Deployment of the Generally Atonic 64-MJ Rail-Gun and the Generally Atonic EMALS! I suspect the Technology is One and the Same”…

  • tpharwell

    Improving readiness through maintenance…..not the most prized assignment in the Navy nor the highest concern. I wonder, if I rummaged around Frisco Bay and Norfolk, through the Navy’s reserve fleet of destroyers, frigates, opvs, oilers, cruisers, yea, even aircraft carriers, between those that had been retired too early due to maintenance issues – or the lack thereof – I could come up with the makings of a respectable top tier world navy ?

  • publius_maximus_III

    She’s very pretty, but I wonder if she is the most qualified -person- to nominate for the job… or simply the most qualified -woman- to nominate. Sorry, just an old dinosaur who does not understand the PC of the times.

    • Secundius

      @ publius_maximus_III.

      I’d watch it around her “PMIII”, She’s a Senior Air Force Pilot rated to Fly C-130’s and C-17’s. You don’t want to by Accident or Design, walking into either a Spinning Turbo-Prop Propeller or the Fully-Throttled Turbo-Fan Air Intake DO YOU…

  • John King

    She’s stating the same “administration” positions of every president, just as all politicians do. I’d like it if, in their bargaining for their position, they told the president (who doesn’t really personally interview or nominate them), that he can get their experience but only if along with espousing the official position they also gave their personal opinion. At least that’s honest.

  • reggie82237

    Have been associated with US Navy in several capacities for 60 years. Can anyone identify one instance where a new construction aircraft carrier has been delivered on time within budget? I can’t.