The Navy on Wednesday issued an $8 million contract modification for the modernization overhaul of a ship it wants to decommission next year.
The service awarded the modification to BAE Systems Ship Repair in Norfolk, Va., “to incorporate a request for a contract change for a 217-day extension for the accomplishment of the growth work” on Vicksburg’s modernization overhaul, according to the Defense Department’s contract announcements.
The modification takes the total number of dollars spent on the contract to $214.6 million. The Navy anticipates the work to finish in March of 2023.
Vicksburg, a Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser, is one of 24 ships the Navy hopes to decommission in Fiscal Year 2023.
The award comes as lawmakers consider the Navy’s FY 2023 budget request. Service officials have repeatedly argued the Navy’s money would be better spent on modernization and readiness efforts than on the aging cruiser fleet.
But that argument has not appeared to sway lawmakers, who are concerned that the Navy is decommissioning more ships than it plans to build and that the service is not efficiently managing taxpayer funds.
“Some of these ships – especially the Littoral Combat Ships – are among the newest in the fleet. The Navy claims they don’t have enough sufficient funding to maintain and operate these ships, but that’s not the case. Instead, they’ve mismanaged billions of dollars in maintenance funding. One glaring example of this is the USS Vicksburg, a cruiser up for decommissioning this year,” Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas) said Wednesday at a House Appropriations defense subcommittee hearing.
“At a time when the ship is still in its maintenance period, the Navy is proposing to scrap it. If the Navy experts expect Congress to support its vision for this fleet, it must do a much better job of managing the inventory it has. We will not stand idly by as valuable taxpayer funds are wasted.”
Vicksburg is about 85 percent of the way through the modernization program meant to extend the service life of the ship, Jay Stefany, the principal civilian deputy to the assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development and acquisition, told the House Armed Services seapower and projection forces subcommittee on Wednesday.
A spokesperson for Naval Sea Systems Command told USNI News last month that the modernization overhaul for Vicksburg is slated to finish in the summer of 2023.
In a call with reporters last month, Vice Adm. Scott Conn, the deputy chief of naval operations for warfighting requirements and capabilities (OPNAV N9), expressed skepticism that Vicksburg would finish the maintenance overhaul on time.
“Congress may not be happy, they may push back. There is concern at the waterfront. Having been down and visited Vicksburg last week, and walked that ship and they got a lot of stuff done. And they have a long way to go. So it’s just a part of our ‘get real’ perspective in the Navy in terms of assessing where we are. And is the investment we continue to make on these ships going to give us a return from a warfighting capability perspective?”