WASHINGTON — Decisions are looming on two major new US Navy shipbuilding programs, and while the service wants to get the best deal for the ships, it’s also concerned about preserving its industrial base.
To that end, acquisition chief Sean Stackley is structuring the competition to build the new T-AO(X) fleet oiler and LHA 8 amphibious assault ship so that San Diego-based General Dynamics National Steel and Shipbuilding Co. (NASSCO) and the Huntington Ingalls Industries’ yard in Mississippi — each of which plan to bid for the ships — both get enough work to remain viable.
The ships “are key to our core structure. And they’re also key to our industrial base,” Stackley said March 18 in an interview. “So when we try to balance requirements and affordability in the industrial base, a couple of things come to mind. First and foremost is, we have two major builders for these types of ships, Ingalls and NASSCO. And each of them are in a position where they have to win one of the programs. However, if we go down the path of competing them one at a time, it’s easy to envision a scenario where either one of them sweeps the table.”
A decision on the T-AO(X) is expected in 2016, with the LHA 8 to come in 2017. Stackley noted that the yard that does not win the oiler “will be in a very difficult position to compete head-to-head for the next program, the LHA 8, because of the imbalance of workload that was just created between the two. So to keep them head-to-head in terms of competiveness, we have determined that first, we’re going to limit the competition to those two shipyards, because each needs to win one of those first two contracts” to remain viable.