Report to Congress on U.S. Navy Frigate FFG(X) Program

April 22, 2020 7:47 AM

The following is the April 17, 2020 Congressional Research Service report, Navy Frigate (FFG[X]) Program: Background and Issues for Congress.

From the report

The FFG(X) program is a Navy program to build a class of 20 guided-missile frigates (FFGs). Congress funded the procurement of the first FFG(X) in FY2020 at a cost of $1,281.2 million (i.e., about $1.3 billion). The Navy’s proposed FY2021 budget requests $1,053.1 million (i.e., about $1.1 billion) for the procurement of the second FFG(X). The Navy estimates that subsequent ships in the class will cost roughly $940 million each in then-year dollars.

Four industry teams are competing for the FFG(X) program. The Navy is scheduled to award the FFG(X) contract—a Detail Design and Construction (DD&C) contract for up to 10 ships in the program (the lead ship plus 9 option ships)—in July 2020. On February 28, 2020, it was reported that Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly had asked the Navy acquisition executive to look into the possibility of awarding the FFG(X) contract earlier than July 2020.

The Navy intends to build the FFG(X) to a modified version of an existing ship design—an approach called the parent-design approach. The parent design can be a U.S. ship design or a foreign ship design. Two of the industry teams competing for the FFG(X) program—one including Fincantieri/Marinette Marine (F/MM) of Marinette, WI, and another including General Dynamics/Bath Iron Works (GD/BIW) of Bath, ME—are using European frigate designs as their parent design. A third team—a team including Austal USA of Mobile, AL—is using the Navy’s Freedom (LCS-2) class Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) design, which Austal USA currently builds, as its parent design. A fourth team—a team including Huntington Ingalls Industries/Ingalls Shipbuilding (HII/Ingalls) of Pascagoula, MS—has not disclosed what parent design it is using.

As part of its action on the Navy’s FY2020 budget, Congress passed two provisions relating to U.S. content requirements for certain components of each FFG(X)—Section 856 of the FY2020 National Defense Authorization Act (S. 1790/P.L. 116-92 of December 20, 2019), and Section 8113(b) of the FY2020 DOD Appropriations Act (Division A of H.R. 1158/P.L. 116-93 of December 20, 2019).

The FFG(X) program presents several potential oversight issues for Congress, including the following:

  • the potential impact of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) situation on the execution of U.S. military shipbuilding programs, including the FGFG(X) program;
  • whether to fund the procurement in FY2021 of one FFG(X) (the Navy’s request), no FFG(X), or two FFG(X)s;
  • whether Congress should express its sense regarding when the Navy should award the FFG(X) contract;
  • whether to build FFG(X)s at a single shipyard (the Navy’s baseline plan), or at two or three shipyards;
  • whether to take any further legislative action regarding U.S. content requirements for FFG(X)s;
  • whether the Navy has appropriately defined the cost, capabilities, and growth margin of the FFG(X); and
  • cost, schedule, and technical risk in the FFG(X) program; and
  • the potential industrial-base impacts of the FFG(X) program for shipyards and supplier firms in the context of other Navy and Coast Guard shipbuilding programs.

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