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Letter to The Honorable Robert C. Gates, Secretary of Defense

Kennedy, Colleagues Urge Secretary Gates to Review Navy Shipbuilding Decision

Senator Edward Kennedy and a number of his Senate colleagues today asked Secretary Gates to review and evaluate the Navy's plan to purchase only two new DDG-1000 Zumwalt destroyers for the future, instead of the seven planned. Instead, the Navy would return to buying DDG-51 destroyers. For the last decade and at a cost of over $11 billion, a long succession of the Navy's leaders have touted the benefits of the DDG-1000 program as essential to maintaining our naval superiority in the years ahead.

In February, Secretary of the Navy Donald Winter assured the Senate Armed Services Committee that he would follow the normal budget process. Now, only five months later, Secretary Winter and Admiral Roughead have done an about-face and tried to cancel the program. The Navy has failed to provide Congress with any evidence of a sweeping change in requirements that would justify abandoning the DDG-1000 in favor of the less capable DDG-51. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mullen stated last year that the Navy does not need more DDG-51s, and that returning to them would be going back to 1980's technology.

Decisions of this magnitude should not be made without a careful analysis conducted under the normal budget process with oversight by the appropriate congressional committees.

Those signing the letter are Senators Kennedy, Kerry, Webb, Dorgan, Kohl, Reed, Snowe, Collins, Coleman, Whitehouse, Martinez, and Nelson.

The text of the letter appears below.

July 24, 2008

The Honorable Robert C. Gates
Secretary of Defense
1000 Defense Pentagon
Washington, DC 20301-1000

Dear Secretary Gates:

For more than a decade, the Navy has consistently testified before Congress on the need for modern capability in surface combatants and assured Congress that the investment of more than $11 billion in DDG-1000 would be re-used in future designs. We were therefore alarmed by an apparent shift in FY09 budget priorities away from the established long-term shipbuilding plan and advocacy by senior Navy officials for truncating the DDG-1000 program and re-starting production of the DDG-51. This apparent shift comes only a few months after testimony by senior Navy officials on the importance of allowing the combatant-build programs to take root, grow, and stabilize. This also conflicts with numerous Navy, Defense Department, and industry witnesses who have pointed out that wide variability in ship acquisition planning and execution is a leading contributor to cost growth and other acquisition problems.

A shift of this magnitude in the Navy's shipbuilding plan requires a full review and analysis through the proper departmental channels and processes, including congressional oversight. To do otherwise would undermine the Navy's shipbuilding plan in Congress and could result in the Congress providing no funding for new surface combatants in FY09.

A full review and analysis are particularly warranted with regard to any proposal to restart the DDG-51 production line to fulfill Navy surface combatant requirements. The real cost of purchasing DDG-51s instead of DDG-1000s, both in financial and capability terms, is unclear. The only way to make a sound comparison between the two alternatives is to have detailed, documented estimates of the costs for both programs and to assess the extent to which each ship can meet the validated warfighting requirements for which the DDG-1000 was intended.

In light of this apparent disconnect between more than a decade of Navy testimony and the recent advocacy against the President's budget, we urge you to undertake a thorough review and evaluation of the Navy's proposal. The Navy should adhere to proper procedures and heed its own advice about avoiding major perturbations in the shipbuilding program. If it desires to alter the long-term shipbuilding plan, it should provide a detailed explanation of its reasons to you and the proper congressional committees. Until such time, we believe the Navy should continue to support the President's FY09 budget request. Thank you for your attention to this issue, and we look forward to your response.

With respect and appreciation,

Sincerely,

Edward M. Kennedy John F. Kerry
Herbert H. Kohl Olympia J. Snowe
Byron L. Dorgan Jack Reed
Susan M. Collins Bill Nelson
Mel Martinez Norm Coleman
James Webb Sheldon Whitehouse

Cc: Deputy Secretary Gordon England
Under Secretary John Young
Secretary Donald Winter
Admiral Michael Mullen
Admiral Gary Roughead


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