Navy secretary slams Congress for criticizing the USS Gerald R. Ford


  • Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer at an event Wednesday sharply criticized Congress for disparaging the aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford.
  • “I look at her and other leadership on the Hill that continually disparage the Ford as a program, and I get a little upset,” he said, referring to Democratic Rep. Elaine Luria, a congresswoman from Virginia who characterized the carrier as a $13-billion nuclear-powered floating berthing barge.
  • After calling out Congress for its inability to pass a budget and decision to place detrimental price caps on the Ford, Spencer called attention to the shipbuilder — Huntington Ingalls Industries.
  • He argued that Congress should be talking to HII and that faith and confidence in the senior leadership at HII is “very, very low.”
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The Navy secretary sharply criticized Congress on Wednesday after a Democratic lawmaker characterized the aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford as a $13-billion nuclear-powered floating berthing barge.

Speaking at a Brookings Institution event on Wednesday, Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer responded to comments made by Rep. Elaine Luria, a congresswoman from Virginia, in a hearing on readiness the day before.

He rejected her criticisms of the ship, as well as assertions that it won’t be deployable with a full capability set until 2024, arguing that “it’ll be sooner.”

“I look at her and other leadership on the Hill that continually disparage the Ford as a program, and I get a little upset,” Spencer said.

The Ford is a first-in-class carrier that includes a suite of new technologies, such as advanced weapons elevators, dual band radars, and new catapults and arresting gear.

The development of the ship, while it is progressing, has not exactly gone according to plan, and the new carrier is now behind schedule, over budget, and still struggling with the integration of certain technologies, specifically the elevators.

Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer

Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin


Read more: Half the US Navy’s aircraft carrier fleet can’t deploy, but the service says it has what it needs to maintain the fleet

Spencer promised last year that the elevators would be ready to go by the time the Ford concluded its post-shakedown availability (PSA), which was supposed to end in July but was extended out to October.

As of Wednesday, four of the eleven elevators have been certified. The secretary told reporters Huntington Ingalls Industries is responsible for the delays.

HII, he explained, initially said it was “highly confident” that it could get the elevators integrated into the ship on time. “Spring of this year, HII management says, ‘Oops, it’s going to be 2020. We really have no idea what we’re doing.'”

He said that faith and confidence in HII’s senior leadership is “very, very low.”

Following earlier criticisms of Congress’ inability to pass a budget and decisions to put price caps on the Ford, the Navy secretary suggested that lawmakers talk to the shipbuilder.

“I love the fact that, and I’m going to be very aggressive here, Congress turns around and says, ‘Navy, this is your fault,'” he told reporters.

“I have an extra seat up there when I testify, and I have not seen Huntington Ingalls Newport News called up on the Hill to testify on the outrage that my board of directors sees on the Ford,” he said, referring to members of Congress.

“Let’s have open, transparent conversations,” Spencer added.



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