US Navy underestimating cost of second Ford-class carrier: GAO

The U.S. Navy should develop a more accurate cost estimate for its second Ford-class carrier, the future USS John F. Kennedy (CVN 79), if it wants to avoid the mistakes made on the lead ship, an independent watchdog has warned.

The recently delivered USS Gerald R. Ford cost the navy over $2 billion more than initially expected.

Following a review of the navy’s current estimates for CVN 79, the Government Accountability Office has found that the navy is at risk of repeating the mistakes at the potential cost of of hundreds of millions of dollars.

“The cost estimate for the second Ford-Class aircraft carrier, CVN 79, is not reliable and does not address lessons learned from the performance of the lead ship, CVN 78,” GAO said.

“As a result, the estimate does not demonstrate that the program can meet its $11.4 billion cost cap. Cost growth for the lead ship was driven by challenges with technology development, design, and construction, compounded by an optimistic budget estimate. Instead of learning from the mistakes of CVN 78, the Navy developed an estimate for CVN 79 that assumes a reduction in labor hours needed to construct the ship that is unprecedented in the past 50 years of aircraft carrier construction.”

The Navy should develop a new, reliable cost estimate for CVN 79 validated by cost reviews and obtain an independent cost estimate before requesting funding for future ships, GAO recommended.

If the independent cost estimate for CVN 79 should exceed the cost cap, the Navy should submit to Congress a request to revise the cost cap.