Navy Ford (CVN-78) Class Aircraft Carrier Program: Background and Issues for Congress




Navy Ford (CVN-78) Class Aircraft Carrier
Program: Background and Issues for Congress

Updated February 18, 2021
Congressional Research Service
https://crsreports.congress.gov
RS20643




Navy Ford (CVN-78) Class Aircraft Carrier Program: Background and Issues for Congress

Summary
The aircraft carriers CVN-78, CVN-79, CVN-80, and CVN-81 are the first four ships in the
Navy’s new Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) class of nuclear-powered aircraft carriers (CVNs). The
Navy’s proposed FY2021 budget requested $2,714.1 million (i.e., about $2.7 billion) in
procurement funding for CVN-78 class ships, including $71.0 million for CVN-78, $997.5
million for CVN-80, and $1,645.6 million for CVN-81. Congress, as part of its action on the
Navy’s FY2021 budget, provided a total of $2,565.4 million (i.e., about $2.6 billion), including
$71.0 million for CVN-78, $958.9 million for CVN-80, and $1,606.4 million for CVN-81.
CVN-78 (Gerald R. Ford) was procured in FY2008. The Navy’s proposed FY2021 budget
estimates the ship’s procurement cost at $13,316.5 million (i.e., about $13.3 billion) in then-year
dollars. The ship was commissioned into service on July 22, 2017. The Navy is currently working
to complete construction, testing, and certification of the ship’s 11 weapons elevators and to
correct other technical problems aboard the ship.
CVN-79 (John F. Kennedy) was procured in FY2013. The Navy’s proposed FY2021 budget
estimates the ship’s procurement cost at $11,397.7 million (i.e., about $11.4 billion) in then-year
dollars. The ship is being built with an improved process that incorporates lessons learned from
the construction of CVN-78. CVN-79 is scheduled for delivery to the Navy in September 2024.
CVN-80 (Enterprise) was procured in FY2018. The Navy’s proposed FY2021 budget estimates
the ship’s procurement cost at $12,321.3 million (i.e., about $12.3 billion) in then-year dollars.
The ship is scheduled for delivery to the Navy in March 2028.
CVN-81 (Doris Miller) is treated in this report as a ship that was procured in FY2019, consistent
with congressional action on the Navy’s FY2019 budget. The Navy’s FY2021 budget submission
shows CVN-81 as a ship that was procured in FY2020. The Navy’s FY2021 budget submission
estimates the ship’s procurement cost at $12,450.7 million (i.e., about $12.5 billion) in then-year
dollars. The ship is scheduled for delivery to the Navy in February 2032.
CVN-80 and CVN-81 are being procured under a two-ship block buy contract that was authorized
by Section 121(a)(2) of the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year
2019 (H.R. 5515/P.L. 115-232 of August 13, 2018). The use of the two-ship block buy contract
reduced the combined estimated procurement cost of the two ships.
Oversight issues for Congress for the CVN-78 program include the following:
 the potential impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the execution of U.S.
military shipbuilding programs, including the CVN-78 program;
 a delay in CVN-78’s first deployment due to the need to complete work on the
ship’s weapons elevators and correct other technical problems aboard the ship;
 whether the Navy in its annual budget request has accurately priced the work on
the CVN-78 program that it is proposing to fund for that fiscal year;
 cost growth in the CVN-78 program, Navy efforts to stem that growth, and Navy
efforts to manage costs so as to stay within the program’s cost caps;
 additional CVN-78 program issues that were raised in a January 2021 report from
the Department of Defense’s (DOD’s) Director of Operational Test and
Evaluation (DOT&E) and a June 2020 Government Accountability Office (GAO)
report on DOD weapon systems; and
 the procurement of aircraft carriers after CVN-81.
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Contents
Introduction ..................................................................................................................................... 1
Background ..................................................................................................................................... 1

Current Navy Aircraft Carrier Force ......................................................................................... 1
Statutory Requirements for Numbers of Carriers and Carrier Air Wings ................................. 1

Requirement to Maintain Not Less Than 11 Carriers ......................................................... 1
Requirement to Maintain a Minimum of Nine Carrier Air Wings ...................................... 2
Navy Force-Level Goal ............................................................................................................. 2
Current 12-Carrier Force-Level Goal within 355-Ship Plan of December 2016 ................ 2
December 9, 2020, Documents Presents Potential New Goal of 8 to 11 Large
Carriers and Up to 6 Light Carriers ................................................................................. 3
Incremental Funding Authority for Aircraft Carriers ................................................................ 3
Aircraft Carrier Construction Industrial Base ........................................................................... 3
Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) Class Program ................................................................................ 4
Overview ............................................................................................................................. 4
CVN-78 (Gerald R. Ford) ................................................................................................... 4
CVN-79 (John F. Kennedy) ................................................................................................ 5
CVN-80 (Enterprise) ........................................................................................................... 5
CVN-81 (Doris Miller) ....................................................................................................... 5
Two-Ship Block Buy Contract for CVN-80 and CVN-81 .................................................. 5
Program Procurement Cost Cap .......................................................................................... 6
Program Procurement Funding ........................................................................................... 7
Changes in Estimated Unit Procurement Costs Since FY2008 Budget .............................. 8
Issues for Congress for FY2021 ...................................................................................................... 9
Potential Impact of COVID-19 Pandemic ................................................................................ 9
Delay in CVN-78’s Deployment Due to Weapon Elevators and Other Challenges................ 10
Overview ........................................................................................................................... 10
Weapons Elevators ............................................................................................................ 10
Other Technical Challenges ............................................................................................... 11
Change in Program Manager ............................................................................................. 11
Navy Efforts to Address Technical Challenges ................................................................. 12
Potential Oversight Questions ........................................................................................... 16
Pricing of Proposed Annual Work on CVN-78 Program ........................................................ 16
Cost Growth and Managing Costs within Program Cost Caps ............................................... 16

Overview ........................................................................................................................... 16
CVN-78 ............................................................................................................................. 18
CVNs 79, 80, and 81 ......................................................................................................... 19
Issues Raised in January 2021 DOT&E and June 2020 GAO Reports ................................... 23
January 2021 DOT&E Report .......................................................................................... 23
June 2020 GAO Report ..................................................................................................... 27
Procurement of Aircraft Carriers After CVN-81 ..................................................................... 29
Overview ........................................................................................................................... 29
Shock Trial .............................................................................................................................. 31
Legislative Activity for FY2022 .................................................................................................... 31
Legislative Activity for FY2021 .................................................................................................... 31

Summary of Congressional Action on FY2021 Funding Request .......................................... 31
FY2021 National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 6395/S. 4049/P.L. 116-283) .................. 31

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House ................................................................................................................................ 31
Senate ................................................................................................................................ 32
Conference ........................................................................................................................ 33
FY2021 DOD Appropriations Act (H.R. 7617/S. XXXX/Division C of H.R. 133/P.L.
116-260) ............................................................................................................................... 34
House ................................................................................................................................ 34
Senate ................................................................................................................................ 34
Conference ........................................................................................................................ 34


Figures
Figure 1. USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) ....................................................................................... 4

Tables
Table 1. Procurement Funding for CVNs 78, 79, 80, and 81 Through FY2028 ............................. 7
Table 2. Changes in Estimated Procurement Costs of CVNs 78, 79, 80, and 81 ............................ 8
Table 3. Congressional Action on FY2021 Procurement Funding Request .................................. 31

Appendixes
Appendix A. Background Information on Two-Ship Block Buy for CVN-80 and CVN-81 ........ 35
Appendix B. Shock Trial ............................................................................................................... 39

Contacts
Author Information ........................................................................................................................ 40

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Introduction
This report provides background information and potential oversight issues for Congress on the
Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) class nuclear-powered aircraft carrier (CVN) aircraft carrier program.
The Navy’s proposed FY2021 budget requested $2,714.2 million (i.e., about $2.7 billion) in
procurement funding for the program. Congress’s decisions on the CVN-78 program could
substantially affect Navy capabilities and funding requirements and the shipbuilding industrial
base.
Background
Current Navy Aircraft Carrier Force
The Navy’s current aircraft carrier force consists of 11 CVNs,1 including 10 Nimitz-class ships
(CVNs 68 through 77) that entered service between 1975 and 2009, and one Gerald R. Ford
(CVN-78) class ship that was commissioned into service on July 22, 2017.2
Statutory Requirements for Numbers of Carriers and
Carrier Air Wings

Requirement to Maintain Not Less Than 11 Carriers
10 U.S.C. 8062(b) requires the Navy to maintain a force of not less than 11 operational aircraft
carriers.3 The requirement for the Navy to maintain not less than a certain number of operational
aircraft carriers was established by Section 126 of the FY2006 National Defense Authorization
Act (H.R. 1815/P.L. 109-163 of January 6, 2006), which set the number at 12 carriers. The
requirement was changed from 12 carriers to 11 carriers by Section 1011(a) of the FY2007 John
Warner National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 5122/P.L. 109-364 of October 17, 2006).4

1 The Navy’s last remaining conventionally powered carrier (CV), Kitty Hawk (CV-63), was decommissioned on
January 31, 2009.
2 The commissioning into service of CVN-78 on July 22, 2017, ended a period during which the carrier force had
declined to 10 ships—a period that began on December 1, 2012, with the inactivation of the one-of-a-kind nuclear-
powered aircraft carrier Enterprise (CVN-65), a ship that entered service in 1961.
3 10 U.S.C. 8062 was previously numbered as 10 U.S.C. 5062. It was renumbered as 10 U.S.C. 8062 by Section 807 of
the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019 (H.R. 5515/P.L. 115-232 of August 13,
2018), which directed a renumbering of sections and titles of Title 10 relating to the Navy and Marine Corps. (Sections
806 and 808 of P.L. 115-232 directed a similar renumbering of sections and titles relating to the Air Force and Army,
respectively.)
4 As mentioned in footnote 2, the carrier force dropped from 11 ships to 10 ships between December 1, 2017, when
Enterprise (CVN-65) was inactivated, and July 22, 2017, when CVN-78 was commissioned into service. Anticipating
the gap between the inactivation of CVN-65 and the commissioning of CVN-78, the Navy asked Congress for a
temporary waiver of 10 U.S.C. 8062(b) to accommodate the period between the two events. Section 1023 of the
FY2010 National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 2647/P.L. 111-84 of October 28, 2009) authorized the waiver,
permitting the Navy to have 10 operational carriers between the inactivation of CVN-65 and the commissioning of
CVN-78.
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Navy Ford (CVN-78) Class Aircraft Carrier Program: Background and Issues for Congress

Requirement to Maintain a Minimum of Nine Carrier Air Wings
10 U.S.C. 8062(e), which was added by Section 1042 of the FY2017 National Defense
Authorization Act (S. 2943/P.L. 114-328 of December 23, 2016), requires the Navy to maintain a
minimum of nine carrier air wings.5
Navy Force-Level Goal
Current 12-Carrier Force-Level Goal within 355-Ship Plan of December 2016
In December 2016, the Navy released a force-level goal for achieving and maintaining a fleet of
355 ships, including 12 aircraft carriers6—one more than the minimum of 11 carriers required by
10 U.S.C. 8062(b).
Given the time needed to build a carrier and the projected retirement dates of existing carriers,
increasing the carrier force from 11 ships to 12 ships on a sustained basis would take a number of
years.7 Under the Navy’s FY2020 30-year shipbuilding plan, carrier procurement would shift
from 5-year centers (i.e., one carrier procured each five years) to 4-year centers after the
procurement of CVN-82 in FY2028, and a 12-carrier force would be achieved on a sustained
basis in the 2060s.8

5 10 U.S.C. 8062(e) states the following:
The Secretary of the Navy shall ensure that-
(1) the Navy maintains a minimum of 9 carrier air wings until the earlier of-
(A) the date on which additional operationally deployable aircraft carriers can fully support a 10th
carrier air wing; or
(B) October 1, 2025;
(2) after the earlier of the two dates referred to in subparagraphs (A) and (B) of paragraph (1), the
Navy maintains a minimum of 10 carrier air wings; and
(3) for each such carrier air wing, the Navy maintains a dedicated and fully staffed headquarters.
6 For more on the 355-ship force-level goal, see CRS Report RL32665, Navy Force Structure and Shipbuilding Plans:
Background and Issues for Congress
, by Ronald O'Rourke.
7 Procuring carriers on 3-year centers would achieve a 12-carrier force on a sustained basis by about 2030, unless the
service lives of one or more existing carriers were substantially extended. Procuring carriers on 3.5-year centers (i.e., a
combination of 3- and 4-year centers) would achieve a 12-carrier force on a sustained basis no earlier than about 2034,
unless the service lives of one or more existing carriers were substantially extended. Procuring carriers on 4-year
centers would achieve a 12-carrier force on a sustained basis by about 2063—almost 30 years later than under 3.5-year
centers—unless the service lives of one or more existing carriers were substantially extended. (Source for 2063 date in
relation to four-year centers: Congressional Budget Office (CBO), in a telephone consultation with CRS on May 18,
2017.)
8 The projected size of the carrier force in the Navy’s FY2020 30-year (FY2020-FY2049) shipbuilding plan reflected
the Navy’s now-withdrawn FY2020 budget proposal to not fund the RCOH for the aircraft carrier CVN-75 (Harry S.
Truman), and to instead retire the ship around FY2024. With the withdrawal of this budget proposal, the projected size
of the carrier force became, for the period FY2022-FY2047, one ship higher than what is shown in the Navy’s FY2020
budget submission. The newly adjusted force-level projection, reflecting the withdrawal of the proposal to retire CVN-
75 around FY2024, were as follows: The force is projected to include 11 ships in FY2020-FY2021, 12 ships in
FY2022-FY2024, 11 ships in FY2025-FY2026, 10 ships in FY2027, 11 ships in FY2028-FY2039, 10 ships in FY2040,
11 ships in FY2041, 10 ships in FY2042-FY2044, 11 ships in FY2045, 10 ships in FY2046-FY2047, 9 ships in
FY2048, and 10 ships in FY2049.
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December 9, 2020, Documents Presents Potential New Goal of 8 to 11 Large
Carriers and Up to 6 Light Carriers

The Navy and the Department of Defense (DOD) since 2019 have been working to develop a new
Navy force-level goal to replace the current 355-ship force-level goal. On December 9, 2020, the
outgoing Trump Administration released a document that can be viewed as its own vision for
future Navy force structure and/or a draft version of the FY2022 30-year Navy shipbuilding plan.
The document presents an envisioned Navy force-level goal for achieving by 2045 a Navy with a
more distributed fleet architecture, including 382 to 446 manned ships and 143 to 242 large UVs.
Within the total of 382 to 446 manned ships, the document calls for a total of 8 to 11 CVNs and 0
to 6 smaller aircraft carriers called light aircraft carriers (CVLs). The Navy does not currently
operate CVLs. In establishing its force-level goal for the Navy, the Biden Administration can
choose to adopt, revise, or set aside the December 9, 2020, document.
Incremental Funding Authority for Aircraft Carriers
In recent years, Congress has authorized DOD to use incremental funding for procuring certain
Navy ships, most notably aircraft carriers.9 Under incremental funding, some of the funding
needed to fully fund a ship is provided in one or more years after the year in which the ship is
procured.10
Aircraft Carrier Construction Industrial Base
All U.S. aircraft carriers procured since FY1958 have been built by Huntington Ingalls
Industries/Newport News Shipbuilding (HII/NNS), of Newport News, VA. HII/NNS is the only
U.S. shipyard that can build large-deck, nuclear-powered aircraft carriers. The aircraft carrier
construction industrial base also includes roughly 2,000 supplier firms in 46 states.11

9 The provisions providing authority for using incremental funding for procuring CVN-78 class carriers are as follows:
Section 121 of the FY2007 John Warner National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 5122/P.L. 109-364 of October 17,
2006) granted the Navy the authority to use four-year incremental funding for CVNs 78, 79, and 80. Under this
authority, the Navy could fully fund each of these ships over a four-year period that includes the ship’s year of
procurement and three subsequent years.
Section 124 of the FY2012 National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 1540/P.L. 112-81 of December 31, 2011)
amended Section 121 of P.L. 109-364 to grant the Navy the authority to use five-year incremental funding for CVNs
78, 79, and 80. Since CVN-78 was fully funded in FY2008-FY2011, the provision in practice originally applied to
CVNs 79 and 80, although as discussed in the footnote to Table 1, the Navy made use of the authority in connection
with an FY2020 reprogramming action that reprogrammed $86.0 million of funding into FY2012 for CVN-78.
Section 121 of the FY2013 National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 4310/P.L. 112-239 of January 2, 2013) amended
Section 121 of P.L. 109-364 to grant the Navy the authority to use six-year incremental funding for CVNs 78, 79, and
80. Since CVN-78 was fully funded in FY2008-FY2011, the provision in practice applies to CVNs 79 and 80.
Section 121(c) of the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019 (H.R. 5515/P.L. 115-
232 of August 13, 2018) authorized incremental funding to be used for making payments under the two-ship block buy
contract for the construction of CVN-80 and CVN-81. This provision does not limit the total number of years across
which incremental funding may be used to procure either ship.
10 For more on full funding and incremental funding, see CRS Report RL31404, Defense Procurement: Full Funding
Policy—Background, Issues, and Options for Congress
, by Ronald O'Rourke and Stephen Daggett, and CRS Report
RL32776, Navy Ship Procurement: Alternative Funding Approaches—Background and Options for Congress, by
Ronald O'Rourke.
11 Source for figures of 2,000 supplier firms in 46 states: Jennifer Boykin, president of HII/NNS, as quoted in Marcus
Weisgerber, “US Navy Places First 2-Carrier Order in Three Decades,” Defense One, January 31, 2019.
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Navy Ford (CVN-78) Class Aircraft Carrier Program: Background and Issues for Congress

Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) Class Program
Overview
The Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) class carrier design (Figure 1) is the successor to the Nimitz-class
carrier design. The Ford-class design uses the basic Nimitz-class hull form but incorporates
several improvements, including features permitting the ship to generate more aircraft sorties per
day, more electrical power for supporting ship systems, and features permitting the ship to be
operated by several hundred fewer sailors than a Nimitz-class ship, reducing 50-year life-cycle
operating and support (O&S) costs for each ship by about $4 billion compared to the Nimitz-class
design, the Navy estimates. Navy plans call for procuring at least four Ford-class carriers—CVN-
78, CVN-79, CVN-80, and CVN-81.
Figure 1. USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78)

Source: U.S. U.S. Navy photograph.
CVN-78 (Gerald R. Ford)
CVN-78, which was named Gerald R. Ford in 2007,12 was procured in FY2008. The Navy’s
proposed FY2021 budget estimates the ship’s procurement cost at $13,316.5 million (i.e., about
$13.3 billion) in then-year dollars. The ship was commissioned into service on July 22, 2017. The

12 §1012 of the FY2007 defense authorization act (H.R. 5122/P.L. 109-364 of October 17, 2006) expressed the sense of
Congress that CVN-78 should be named for President Gerald R. Ford. On January 16, 2007, the Navy announced that
CVN-78 would be so named. CVN-78 and other carriers built to the same design are consequently referred to as Ford
(CVN-78) class carriers. For more on Navy ship names, see CRS Report RS22478, Navy Ship Names: Background for
Congress
, by Ronald O'Rourke.
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Navy Ford (CVN-78) Class Aircraft Carrier Program: Background and Issues for Congress

Navy is currently working to complete construction, testing, and certification of the ship’s 11
weapons elevators and to correct other technical problems aboard the ship.
CVN-79 (John F. Kennedy)
CVN-79, which was named John F. Kennedy on May 29, 2011,13 was procured in FY2013. The
Navy’s proposed FY2021 budget estimates the ship’s procurement cost at $11,397.7 million (i.e.,
about $11.4 billion) in then-year dollars. The ship is being built with an improved shipyard
fabrication and assembly process that incorporates lessons learned from the construction of CVN-
78. The ship is scheduled for delivery to the Navy in September 2024.
CVN-80 (Enterprise)
CVN-80, which was named Enterprise on December 1, 2012,14 was procured in FY2018. The
Navy’s proposed FY2021 budget estimates the ship’s procurement cost at $12,335.1 million (i.e.,
about $12.3 billion) in then-year dollars. The Navy’s proposed FY2021 budget estimates the
ship’s procurement cost at $12,321.3 million (i.e., about $12.3 billion) in then-year dollars. The
ship is scheduled for delivery to the Navy in March 2028.
CVN-81 (Doris Miller)
CVN-81 on January 20, 2020, was named Doris Miller, for an African American enlisted sailor
who received the Navy Cross for his actions during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on
December 7, 1941.15 CVN-81 is treated in this report as a ship that was procured in FY2019,
consistent with congressional action on the Navy’s FY2019 budget. The Navy’s FY2021 budget
submission shows CVN-81 as a ship that was procured in FY2020. Prior to the awarding of the
two-ship block buy contract for CVN-80 and CVN-81 that is discussed in the next section, CVN-
81 was scheduled to be procured in FY2023. The Navy’s FY2021 budget submission estimates
CVN-81’s procurement cost at $12,450.7 million (i.e., about $12.5 billion) in then-year dollars.
The ship is scheduled for delivery to the Navy in February 2032.
Two-Ship Block Buy Contract for CVN-80 and CVN-81
CVN-80 and CVN-81 are being procured under a two-ship block buy contract that was authorized
by Section 121(a)(2) of the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year
2019 (H.R. 5515/P.L. 115-232 of August 13, 2018). The provision permitted the Navy to add
CVN-81 to the existing contract for building CVN-80 after DOD made certain certifications to

13 See “Navy Names Next Aircraft Carrier USS John F. Kennedy,” Navy News Service, May 29, 2011, accessed online
on June 1, 2011, at http://www.navy.mil/search/display.asp?story_id=60686. See also Peter Frost, “U.S. Navy’s Next
Aircraft Carrier Will Be Named After The Late John F. Kennedy,” Newport News Daily Press, May 30, 2011. CVN-79
is the second ship to be named for President John F. Kennedy. The first, CV-67, was the last conventionally powered
carrier procured for the Navy. CV-67 was procured in FY1963, entered service in 1968, and was decommissioned in
2007.
14 The Navy made the announcement of CVN-80’s name on the same day that it deactivated the 51-year-old aircraft
carrier CVN-65, also named Enterprise. (“Enterprise, Navy’s First Nuclear-Powered Aircraft Carrier, Inactivated,”
Navy News Service, December 1, 2012; Hugh Lessig, “Navy Retires One Enterprise, Will Welcome Another,” Newport
News Daily Press
, December 2, 2012.) CVN-65 was the eighth Navy ship named Enterprise; CVN-80 is to be the
ninth.
15 For further discussion of the naming of CVN-81 for Doris Miller, see CRS Report RS22478, Navy Ship Names:
Background for Congress
, by Ronald O'Rourke.
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Congress. DOD made the certifications on December 31, 2018, and the Navy announced the
award of the contract on January 31, 2019.
Compared to the estimated procurement costs for CVN-80 and CVN-81 in the Navy’s FY2019
budget submission, the Navy estimated under its FY2020 budget submission that the two-ship
block buy contract will reduce the cost of CVN-80 by $246.6 million and the cost of CVN-81 by
$2,637.3 million, for a combined reduction of $2,883.9 million (i.e., about $2.9 billion).16 (DOD
characterized the combined reduction as “nearly $3 billion.”17) Using higher estimated baseline
costs for CVN-80 and CVN-81 taken from a December 2017 Navy business case analysis, the
Navy estimated under its FY2020 budget submission that the two-ship contract will reduce the
cost of CVN-80 by about $900 million and the cost of CVN-81 by about $3.1 billion, for a
combined reduction of about $4.0 billion.18 These figures are all expressed in then-year dollars,
meaning dollars that are not adjusted for inflation. For additional background information on the
two-ship block buy contract, see Appendix A.
Program Procurement Cost Cap
Congress has established and subsequently amended procurement cost caps for CVN-78 class
aircraft carriers.19

16 Source: CRS calculation based on costs for single-ship purchases as presented in Navy’s FY2019 budget submission
and costs for two-ship purchase as presented in the Navy’s FY2020 budget submission.
17 Source: Navy information paper on estimated cost savings of two-ship carrier buy provided to CRS by Navy Office
of Legislative Affairs on June 20, 2019.
18 Navy information paper provided to CRS by Navy Office of legislative Affairs on June 20, 2019.
19 The provisions that established and later amended the cost caps are as follows:
Section 122 of the FY2007 John Warner National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 5122/P.L. 109-364 of October 17,
2006) established a procurement cost cap for CVN-78 of $10.5 billion, plus adjustments for inflation and other factors,
and a procurement cost cap for subsequent Ford-class carriers of $8.1 billion each, plus adjustments for inflation and
other factors. The conference report (H.Rept. 109-702 of September 29, 2006) on P.L. 109-364 discusses Section 122
on pages 551-552.
Section 121 of the FY2014 National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 3304/P.L. 113-66 of December 26, 2013)
amended the procurement cost cap for the CVN-78 program to provide a revised cap of $12,887.0 million for CVN-78
and a revised cap of $11,498.0 million for each follow-on ship in the program, plus adjustments for inflation and other
factors (including an additional factor not included in original cost cap).
Section 122 of the FY2016 National Defense Authorization Act (S. 1356/P.L. 114-92 of November 25, 2015) further
amended the cost cap for the CVN-78 program to provide a revised cap of $11,398.0 million for each follow-on ship in
the program, plus adjustment for inflation and other factors, and with a new provision stating that, if during
construction of CVN-79, the Chief of Naval Operations determines that measures required to complete the ship within
the revised cost cap shall result in an unacceptable reduction to the ship’s operational capability, the Secretary of the
Navy may increase the CVN-79 cost cap by up to $100 million (i.e., to $11.498 billion). If such an action is taken, the
Navy is to adhere to the notification requirements specified in the cost cap legislation.
Section 121(a) of the FY2018 National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 2810/P.L. 115-91 of December 12, 2017)
further amended the cost cap for the CVN-78 program to provide a revised cap of $12,568.0 million for CVN-80 and
subsequent ships in the program, plus adjustment for inflation and other factors. (The cap for CVN-79 was kept at
$11,398.0 million, plus adjustment for inflation and other factors.) The provision also amended the basis for adjusting
the caps for inflation, and excluded certain costs from being counted against the caps.
Section 121 of the FY2020 National Defense Authorization Act (S. 1790/P.L. 116-92 of December 20, 2019) further
amended the cost cap for the CVN-78 program to provide revised caps of $13,224.0 million for CVN-78, $11,398.0
million for CVN–79, $12,202.0 million for CVN–80, and $12,451.0 million for CVN–81. The provision directs the
Navy to exclude from these figures costs for CVN–78 class battle spares, interim spares, and increases attributable to
economic inflation after December 1, 2018.
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Program Procurement Funding
Table 1 shows procurement funding for CVNs 78, 79, 80, and 81 through FY2028, the final year
of funding programmed for CVN-81, under the Navy’s FY2021 budget submission. As shown in
the table, the Navy’s proposed FY2021 budget requested $2,714.1 million (i.e., about $2.7
billion) in procurement funding for CVN-78 class ships, including $71.0 million for CVN-78,
$997.5 million for CVN-80, and $1,645.6 million for CVN-81.
Table 1. Procurement Funding for CVNs 78, 79, 80, and 81 Through FY2028
(Millions of then-year dollars, rounded to nearest tenth)
FY
CVN-78
CVN-79
CVN-80
CVN-81
Total
FY01
21.7 (AP)
0
0
0
21.7
FY02
135.3 (AP)
0
0
0
135.3
FY03
395.5 (AP)
0
0
0
395.5
FY04
1,162.9 (AP)
0
0
0
1,162.9
FY05
623.1 (AP)
0
0
0
623.1
FY06
618.9 (AP)
0
0
0
618.9
FY07
735.8 (AP)
52.8 (AP)
0
0
788.6
FY08
2,685.0 (FF)
123.5 (AP)
0
0
2,808.5
FY09
2,687.0 (FF)
1,210.6 (AP)
0
0
3,895.2
FY10
851.3 (FF)
482.9 (AP)
0
0
1,334.2
FY11
1,848.1 (FF)
902.5 (AP)
0
0
2,677.7
FY12
86.0 (FF)**
554.8 (AP)
0
0
554.8
FY13
0
491.0 (FF)
0
0
491.0
FY14
588.1 (CC)
917.6 (FF)
0
0
1,505.7
FY15
663.0 (CC)
1,219.4 (FF)
0
0
1,882.4
FY16
123.8 (CC)
1,569.5 (FF)
862.4 (AP)
0
2,555.7
FY17
0
1,241.8 (FF)
1,370.8 (AP)
0
2,612.6
FY18
20.0 (CC)
2,557.4 (FF)
1,569.6 (FF)
0
4,147.0
FY19
0
0
930.2 (FF)
643.0 (FF)
1,573.2
FY20
0
0
1,062.0 (FF)
1,214.5 (FF)
2,276.5
FY21 (requested)
71.0 (CC)
0
997.5 (FF)
1,645.6 (FF)
2,714.1
FY22 (programmed)
0
74.0 (CC)
1,014.1 (FF)
1,307.0 (FF)
2,395.1
FY23 (programmed)
0
0
1,166.1 (FF)
760.0 (FF)
1,926.1
FY24 (programmed)
0
0
1,047.9 (FF)
667.0 (FF)
1,714.9
FY25 (programmed)
0
0
2,300.6 (FF)
591.0 (FF)
2,891.6
FY26 (projected)
0
0
0
2,171.0 (FF)
2,171.0
FY27 (projected)
0
0
0
1,851.0 (FF)
1,851.0
FY28 (projected)
0
0
0
1,600.7 (FF)
1,600.7
Total
13,316.5
11,397.7
12,321.3
12,450.7
49,486.2
Source: Table prepared by CRS based on Navy’s FY2021 budget submission.
Notes: Figures may not add due to rounding. “AP” is advance procurement funding; “FF” is ful funding; “CC” is
cost-to-complete funding (i.e., funding to cover cost growth), which is sometimes abbreviated in Navy
documents as CTC. The funding figures shown in the CVN-78 column reflect reprogramming under the FY2021
budget submission of $161.5 mil ion of additional funding into FY2009, FY2011, and FY2012. Regarding the **
notation for the FY2012 funding figure for CVN-78, even though FY2012 is after FY2011 (CVN-78’s original final
year of ful funding), the Navy characterizes the $86.0 mil ion reprogrammed into FY2012 as ful funding rather
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than cost-to-complete funding on the grounds that in the years since FY2011, as discussed earlier in this report
(see footnote 9), the authority to use incremental funding for procuring aircraft carriers has been expanded by
Congress to permit more than the four years of incremental funding that were permitted at the time that CVN-
78 was initially funded.
Changes in Estimated Unit Procurement Costs Since FY2008 Budget
Table 2 shows changes in the estimated procurement costs of CVNs 78, 79, 80, and 81 since the
budget submission for FY2008—the year of procurement for CVN-78.
Table 2. Changes in Estimated Procurement Costs of CVNs 78, 79, 80, and 81
(As shown in FY2008-FY2020 budgets, in millions of then-year dollars)
Budget
CVN-78
CVN-79
CVN-80
CVN-81
Est.
Est.
Est.
Schedule
Est.
proc.
Scheduled
proc.
Scheduled
proc.
d FY of
proc.
Scheduled

cost
FY of proc.
cost
FY of proc.
cost
proc.
cost
FY of proc.
FY08
10,488.9
FY08
9,192.0
FY12
10,716.8
FY16
n/a
FY21
FY09
10,457.9
FY08
9,191.6
FY12
10,716.8
FY16
n/a
FY21
FY10
10,845.8
FY08
n/a
FY13
n/a
FY18
n/a
FY23
FY11
11,531.0
FY08
10,413.1
FY13
13,577.0
FY18
n/a
FY23
FY12
11,531.0
FY08
10,253.0
FY13
13,494.9
FY18
n/a
FY23
FY13
12,323.2
FY08
11,411.0
FY13
13,874.2
FY18
n/a
FY23
FY14
12,829.3
FY08
11,338.4
FY13
13,874.2
FY18
n/a
FY23
FY15
12,887.2
FY08
11,498.0
FY13
13,874.2
FY18
n/a
FY23
FY16
12,887.0
FY08
11,347.6
FY13
13,472.0
FY18
n/a
FY23
FY17
12,887.0
FY08
11,398.0
FY13
12,900.0
FY18
n/a
FY23
FY18
12,907.0
FY08
11,377.4
FY13
12,997.6
FY18
n/a
FY23
FY19
12,964.0
FY08
11,341.4
FY13
12,601.7
FY18
15,088.0
FY23
FY20
13,084.0
FY08
11,327.4
FY13
12,335.1
FY18
12,450.7
FY19
FY21
13,316.5
FY08
11,397.7
FY13
12,321.3
FY18
12,450.7
FY19
Annual % change
FY08 to FY09
-0.3

0%

0%

n/a

FY09 to FY10
+3.7

n/a

n/a

n/a

FY10 to FY11
+6.3

n/a

n/a

n/a

FY09 to FY11




+26.7%



FY11 to FY12
0%

-1.5%

-0.1%

n/a

FY12 to FY13
+6.9%

+11.3%

+2.8%

n/a

FY13 to FY14
+4.1%

-0.6%

0%

n/a

FY14 to FY15
+0.5%

+1.4%

0%

n/a

FY15 to FY16
0%

-1.3%

-2.9%

n/a

FY16 to FY17
0%

+0.4%

-4.2%

n/a

FY17 to FY18
+0.2%

-0.2%

+0.7%

n/a

FY18 to FY19
+0.4%

-0.3%

-3.0%

n/a

FY19 to FY20
+0.9%

-0.1%

-2.1%

-17.5%

FY20 to FY21
+1.8%

+0.6%

-0.1%

0%

Cumulative % change through FY21
Since FY08
+27.0%

+24.0%

+15.0%

n/a

Since FY13
+8.1%

-0.1%

-11.2%

n/a

Since FY18
+3.2%

+0.2%

-5.2%

n/a

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Budget
CVN-78
CVN-79
CVN-80
CVN-81
Since FY19
+2.7%

+0.5%

-2.2%

-17.5%

Source: Table prepared by CRS based on FY2008-FY2020 Navy budget submissions. n/a means not available.
Notes: The FY2010 budget submission did not show estimated procurement costs or scheduled years of
procurement for CVNs 79 and 80. The scheduled years of procurement for CVNs 79 and 80 shown here for the
FY2010 budget submission are inferred from the shift to five-year intervals for procuring carriers that was
announced by Secretary of Defense Gates in his April 6, 2009, news conference regarding recommendations for
the FY2010 defense budget.
Issues for Congress for FY2021
Potential Impact of COVID-19 Pandemic
One issue for Congress concerns the potential impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the
execution of U.S. military shipbuilding programs, including the CVN-78 program. An August 13,
2020, press report stated
The Navy’s top acquisition official said the service is reassessing the timeline for the future
aircraft carrier USS John F. Kennedy (CVN-79) due to both the COVID-19 pandemic and
the switch from a dual to single-phase delivery plan.
James Geurts told reporters during a phone press roundtable Wednesday [August 12] that
“obviously we are watching with some concern, the workforce levels at all our shipyards,
but in particular at Newport News there, given the relatively high number of cases in
there.”…
Geurts said the Navy is trying to understand the impacts from both COVID and moving to
a single-phase delivery for CVN-79 and then “understanding the opportunity that going to
a single phase delivery puts together and then leveraging that opportunity to build a more
efficient schedule from here on out for that ship.”20
Another August 13, 2020, press report stated
Geurts told reporters during a telephone news conference that he was particularly worried
about Newport News Shipbuilding, the Huntingtin Ingalls Industries (HII) yard in Virginia,
“given the relatively high number of cases in there”….
The USN is trying to assess what the impacts of the workforce reductions will mean to the
schedule of the aircraft carrier John F. Kennedy (CVN 79), the Ford-class ship recently
launched at Newport News Shipbuilding….
After the media call, Geurts told Janes, “While we still are seeing major reductions in
labour hours in CVN 79 versus CVN 78, we are also looking for opportunities to mitigate
some of the Covid impacts as we shift to a single-phase delivery plan for that ship. Single-
phase delivery will allow us to adjust some of the manpower and trade skill phasing to take
into account the Covid impacts to date. We are working on those adjustments.”21
For additional discussion of the potential impact of the pandemic on the execution of U.S.
military shipbuilding programs, see CRS Report RL32665, Navy Force Structure and
Shipbuilding Plans: Background and Issues for Congress
, by Ronald O'Rourke.

20 Rich Abott, “Navy Reassessing CVN-79 Schedule Due To Pandemic And Phase Change,” Defense Daily, August 13,
2020.
21 Michael Fabey, “Covid-19: Virus Impacts Force US Navy Schedule Reassessments for Carrier Kennedy and Other
Programmes,” Jane’s Navy International, August 13, 2020.
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Delay in CVN-78’s Deployment Due to Weapon Elevators and
Other Challenges

Overview
Another oversight issue for Congress concerns a delay in CVN-78’s first deployment due to the
need to complete the construction, testing, and certification of the ship’s weapons elevators and to
correct other technical problems aboard the ship. Challenges in completing the construction,
testing, and certification of CVN-78’s weapon elevators were first reported in November 2018,22
and the issue has been a matter of continuing oversight attention since then.
Weapons Elevators
The ship’s 11 weapons elevators—referred to as Advanced Weapons Elevators (AWEs)—move
missiles and bombs from the ship’s weapon magazines up to the ship’s flight deck, so that they
can be loaded onto aircraft that are getting ready to take off from the ship. A lack of working
weapons elevators can substantially limit an aircraft carrier’s ability to conduct combat
operations. The Navy has struggled since November 2018 to meet promises it has repeatedly
made to the defense oversight committees to get the elevators completed, tested, and certified.
For much of 2019, the Navy continued to report that 2 of the 11 weapon elevators were
completed, tested, and certified.23 On October 23, 2019, the Navy reported that the figure had
increased to 4 of 11.24 On April 22, 2020, the Navy announced that the fifth elevator had been

22 See Anthony Capaccio, “U.S. Navy’s Costliest Carrier Was Delivered Without Elevators to Lift Bombs,”
Bloomberg, November 2, 2018.
23 Sam LaGrone, “Carrier Ford Will Only Have Two Weapon Elevators Ready When it Leaves Shipyard,” USNI News,
October 9, 2019. See also Anthony Capaccio, “On Costliest U.S. Warship Ever, Navy Can’t Get Munitions on Deck,”
Bloomberg, July 30, 2019. (The article was also published by Bloomberg with the title “Flawed Elevators on $13
Billion Carrier Miss Another Deadline.”) Ben Werner, “Navy Says More Experts Coming to Work Ford Carrier
Elevator Delays,” USNI News, July 5, 2019; Navy Research, Development and Acquisition Public Affairs Office,
“Navy Full Court Press on USS Gerald R. Ford Weapons Elevators,” Navy News Service, July 1, 2019; Mark D. Faram,
“The Navy’s New Plan to Fix Ford’s Elevators Failures,” Navy Times, July 1, 2019; Paul McLeary, “Navy Calls In
Outsiders To Fix Troubled Ford Carrier,” Breaking Defense, July 1, 2019; Ben Werner and Sam LaGrone, “USS
Gerald R. Ford Weapons Elevator Certifications Will Extend Pat October,” USNI News, May 29, 2019. See also Paul
McLeary, “Will Trump Fire SecNav? Super Carrier USS Ford Suffers New Setback,” Breaking Defense, May 29,
2019; Rich Abott, “Ford Elevator Work Prioritized And Extending Past October,” Defense Daily, June 3, 2019; Megan
Eckstein, “Navy Building a Land-Based Test Site for Ford-Class Weapons Elevators, But Timing Won’t Help CVN-
78,” USNI News, May 31, 2019.
For earlier press reports, see Anthony Capaccio, “U.S. Navy’s Costliest Carrier Was Delivered Without Elevators to
Lift Bombs,” Bloomberg, November 2, 2018; Anthony Capaccio, “Flawed Bomb Elevators Leave Inhofe Leery of
Buying Two Carriers,” Bloomberg, December 5, 2019; Megan Eckstein, “SECNAV to Trump: Ford Carrier Weapons
Elevators Will Be Fixed by Summer, or ‘Fire Me,’” USNI News, January 8, 2019; USS Gerald R. Ford Public Affairs,
“USS Gerald R. Ford Accepts First Advanced Weapons Elevator,” Navy News Service, January 16, 2019; Christopher
Woody, “The Navy’s Newest Aircraft Carrier Got a Long-Missing Piece of Gear in December, Helping to Solve a
Problem the Navy Secretary Has Bet His Job on Fixing,” Business Insider, January 20, 2019; Richard Sisk, “Navy
Finally Has One Weapons Elevator Working on Its Newest Carrier,” Military.com, January 22, 2019; Mark D. Faram,
“Once Beleaguered by Critics, the Ford Gets a Lift,” Navy Times, January 23, 2019; USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78)
Public Affairs, “USS Gerald R. Ford Accepts Second Advanced Weapons Elevator,” Navy News Service, March 6,
2019; Mark D. Faram, “Why the Once-Maligned Flattop Ford Is Finally Getting a Lift (or 11),” Navy Times, March 7,
2019; Rich Abott, “Carrier Elevator Test Site Will Procure New Elevator, Ford Accepts Second Elevator,” Defense
Daily
, March 7, 2019; Rich Abott, “Navy To Build Land-Based Carrier Elevator Test Site,” Defense Daily, February
21, 2019.
24 Wesley Morgan, “Navy Secretary Accuses Congressional Critics of ‘Disinformation’ on Ford Carrier,” Politico Pro,
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certified, that the sixth was scheduled to be certified in the fourth quarter of FY2020, and that the
remaining five are scheduled to be certified by the time that the ship undergoes Full Ship Shock
Trials (FSSTs) in the third quarter of FY2021.25 On July 23, 2020, the Navy announced that the
sixth elevator had been certified.26 In November 2020, it was reported that the seventh elevator is
scheduled to be certified before the end of calendar year 2020, and that the remaining four would
be completed by the end of April 2021.27 The Navy states that lessons learned in building, testing,
and certifying CVN-78’s AWEs will be applied to the AWEs of subsequent CVN-78 class
carriers.28 In November 2020, it was reported that HII/NNS had formed a single team to fix and
install the elevators on both CVN-78 and CVN-79.29
Other Technical Challenges
In addition to challenges in building, testing, and certifying the ship’s weapon elevators, the Navy
reportedly has been working to address problems with other systems on the ship, including its
propulsion and electrical systems. Technical issues regarding the weapon elevators and other ship
systems have delayed the ship’s first deployment to 2022 at the earliest, which would be about
five years after the ship was commissioned into service.30 The delay in the ship’s first deployment
is lengthening a period during which the Navy is attempting to maintain policymaker-desired
levels of carrier forward deployments with its 10 other carriers—a situation that can lead to
operational strains on those 10 carriers and their crews.
Change in Program Manager
A July 2, 2020, press report stated

October 23, 2019. See also Sam LaGrone, “Carrier Ford May Not Deploy Until 2024, 3rd Weapons Elevator Certified,”
USNI News, October 22, 2019; Anthony Capaccio, “Trump Lets Navy’s Chief Off the Hook Over an Offer to ‘Fire
Me,’” Bloomberg, November 2, 2019.
25 Program Executive Office Aircraft Carriers Public Affairs, “Fifth Advanced Weapons Elevator certified aboard USS
Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78),” Navy News Service, April 22, 2020. See also Megan Eckstein, “Ford’s 5th Weapons
Elevator Done With Testing; All 11 Should Be Done By Next Summer’s Shock Trials,” USNI News, April 16, 2020.
On January 16, 2020, a Navy official reportedly stated that work on all 11 elevators will be completed by May 2021,
although the official acknowledged that there is some risk in that schedule. (Mallary Shelbourne, “Navy Confident
CVN-78 Will Have All Weapons Elevators by May 2021,” Inside Defense, January 16, 2020.)
26 Gina Harkins, “Supercarrier Ford Could Soon Have More Than Half of Its Weapons Elevators Working,”
Military.com, June 19, 2020.
27 Mallory Shelbourne, “USS Gerald R. Ford Making Steady Progress Ahead of Deployment,” USNI News, November
24, 2020.
28 See, for example, David B. Larter, “US Navy Makes Progress on Aircraft Carrier Ford’s Bedeviled Weapons
Elevators,” Defense News, July 23, 2020; Mallory Shelbourne, “Navy Verifies USS Gerald R. Ford’s Sixth Advanced
Weapons Elevator,” USNI News, July 23, 2020; Rich Abott, “Navy Certifies Second [Lower-Stage] Ford Magazine
Elevator,” Defense Daily, July 23, 2020; Gina Harkins, “Navy Carrier Ford Now Has 6 Working Weapons Elevators,”
Military.com, July 24, 2020.
29 Michael Fabey, “Newport News Shipbuilding Forms One Team for Ford-class Weapons Elevators,” Jane’s,
November 23, 2020.
30 An October 25, 2019, press report stated that Navy officials “are taking a hard look at what’s next and if there’s
enough time for Ford to meet remaining milestones and necessary to deploy sometime in 2022—which as of now is
still the target….” (Mark D. Faram, “Carrier Ford Underway For Tests as Navy Mulls Future Schedule,” Defense &
Aerospace Report
, October 25, 2019.)
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The Navy removed its program manager for the first-in-class USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-
78), as Navy acquisition chief James Geurts looks to boost performance in the new carrier
program.
Capt. Ron Rutan has been moved from the program office to the Naval Sea Systems
(NAVSEA) staff, and Capt. Brian Metcalf has taken over the program office. Metcalf
previously served as the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock (LPD-17) program
manager and was working as the executive assistant to the commander of NAVSEA prior
to his reassignment to the CVN-78 program office (PMS 378).
“Readiness of USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) is the Navy’s top priority, and the progress
the team made during the Post Shakedown Availability (PSA) met requirements while the
subsequent eight months of CVN 78’s post-delivery test and trials (PDT&T) period has
been impressively ahead of plan. Even in the face of a global pandemic, the team has kept
a lightning pace, and we will continue to do so, for our Navy and our nation, until USS
Gerald R. Ford completes her post-delivery obligations and is fully available and ready for
tasking by the Fleet,” NAVSEA spokesman Rory O’Connor told USNI News.
Still, he said, “with 10 months left in PDT&T, followed by full-ship shock trials in [Fiscal
Year 2021], we must ensure that the team takes the opportunity to recharge and allow for
fresh eyes on upcoming challenges as required. While there is no perfect time for leadership
transitions, it is prudent to bring in renewed energy now to lead the CVN 78 team through
the challenges ahead. Capt. Metcalf’s proven program management acumen and extensive
waterfront experience will be a tremendous asset to the CVN 78 team in the months ahead.”
Metcalf took command of the program office on July 1.
O’Connor reiterated that there was no specific incident or causal factor that led to Geurts’
decision to remove Rutan from the office and bring Metcalf in, but rather it was reflective
of the program’s performance over time.31
Navy Efforts to Address Technical Challenges
In a December 6, 2019, memorandum, then-Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly stated
that one of his five immediate objectives would be to “put all hands on deck to make [CVN-78]
ready as a warship as soon as practically possible.”32 In a December 20, 2019, memorandum,
Modly elaborated on this effort, stating that “With the successful completion of CVN 78’s Post
Shakedown Availability and subsequent Independent Steaming Events, finishing work [on the
ship] and delivering this capability to the fleet as quickly and effectively as possible is one of my
highest priorities.” The memorandum established a series of specific tasks to be completed by
certain dates, stated that “The Program Executive Office (PEO) Aircraft Carriers, RADM [Rear
Admiral] Jim Downey, will be accountable for this Vector as supported activity,” and stated that
“Our first ‘Make Ford Ready’ summit will occur on January 9, 2020, with every stakeholder in
government and industry present.”33
A September 14, 2020, press report stated

31 Megan Eckstein, “Navy Removes Ford Carrier Program Manager, Citing Performance Over Time,” USNI News, July
2, 2020. See also Geoff Ziezulewicz, “Navy Fires Program Manager for Troubled Ford Aircraft Carrier,” Navy Times,
July 7, 2020.
32 Thomas B. Modly, memorandum for distribution, subject “SecNav [Secretary of the Navy] Vector 1,” December 6,
2019, p. 1.
33 Thomas B. Modly, memorandum for distribution, subject “SecNav [Secretary of the Navy] Vector 3,” December 20,
2019.
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The U.S. Navy is working to improve the reliability of the new aircraft launch and recovery
systems as the service pushes its newest and most expensive aircraft carrier toward its first
deployment, the head of Naval Air Forces Atlantic said Sept. 12.
Rear Adm. John Meier told a virtual audience at the annual Tailhook symposium that while
reliability concerns were at the top of the agenda, the carrier Ford is on track to be ready
for tasking in 2022.
“The issue we are working closely on is building out of the gate reliability, making sure
[the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System] and [Advanced Arresting Gear] has the right
sparing, parts and equipment in the event that something breaks,” Meier said. "But its also
making sure we have the right procedures and methodologies so those things don’t break.
“We’re still not where we want to be, but we’ve made great strides and we’re getting better
every year.”34
A November 24, 2020, press report stated
USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) has been in and out of port for more than a year as the Navy
continues to wring out the bugs from the new technologies on the next-generation carrier.
While progress is steady, the program still has several milestones to achieve before it’s
ready for its inaugural deployment.
Ford is slated to finish its post-delivery test and trials period and certify all of its weapons
elevators, which have caused delays to the ship’s schedule, before starting full-ship shock
trials in May.
During a USNI News trip last week aboard Ford, crew members were optimistic about the
possibilities the first-in-class carrier holds for the Navy’s future and the progress the crew
has made in recent at-sea periods. But with a few more months to go in the testing stage,
the crew is still working to increase the reliability of multiple new technologies aboard the
ship….
After facing criticism from lawmakers in both parties over delays to the lead ship, officials
say Ford’s time at sea over the last year has allowed sailors to experiment with the new
systems—like the Advanced Weapons Elevators, Advanced Arresting Gear (AAG), and
Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS)—while also beginning to practice
strike group operations.
“These are enormous undertakings. There’s been some problems. There’s been some cost
issues. Most of that’s history,” Rear Adm. James Downey, the Navy’s program executive
officer for aircraft carriers, told reporters aboard Ford last week….
Downey said he could not pinpoint an exact timeframe for Ford’s first deployment, but
Commander of Naval Air Force Atlantic Rear Adm. John Meier in September said Ford is
on track to deploy in 2022.
“I can’t tell you the deployment date is this or that. The issue is we’re about 15 percent
ahead of our maintenance, modernization and ship completion schedule,” Downey said.
“And now we’ve pulled up [i.e., accelerated the schedule for testing] command and control
activities. That’s where we are overall.”35
A December 22, 2020, press report states:
[USS] Ford has spent much of the past year alternating between being in port and at sea,
giving its sailors the chance grow their proficiency on new technologies and refine

34 David B. Larter, “Here’s When the US Navy Thinks the Carrier Ford Will Be Ready to Deploy,” Defense News,
September 14, 2020.
35 Mallory Shelbourne, “USS Gerald R. Ford Making Steady Progress Ahead of Deployment,” USNI News, November
24, 2020.
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procedures for using them while also qualifying pilots and re-certifying its flight deck—all
while navigating challenges imposed by COVID-19.
That work is all part of Ford's 18-month post-delivery test and trials period, which assesses
the ship's overall readiness. This phase, which is part of readying Ford for its first
deployment, is scheduled to wrap up in spring 2021.
The flattop has completed about 5,500 aircraft launches and recoveries, Ford's
commanding officer, Capt. J.J. "Yank" Cummings, told Insider.
In November, Ford operated for the first time as part of a carrier strike group, allowing
battlegroup commanders and the crew to get a feel for how Ford will function as a warship.
"Every underway we get smarter and learn more about our systems and what's required to
be successful on deployment," Cummings said.
Ford was designed and built to require less manpower while being able to launch as many
as 160 aircraft during a 12-hour fly day, as opposed to the 120 sortie-generation rate of the
Nimitz-class.
Capt. Joshua "Flipper" Sager, who commands Ford's embarked Carrier Air Wing 8, said
the crew is maxing out its ability to launch aircraft.
Because Ford has three times the electrical capacity as Nimitz-class carriers, EMALS is
limited more by its operators, who work with safety procedures and other restrictions, than
by its technical components, Sager said.
"We're rapidly arriving at the point where the human factor is going to be the limiting factor
for how fast we can launch aircraft, which really means that the ship is not limited at all in
its capability to launch and recover aircraft," Sager told Insider.
During late-stage workups, the goal for the air wing will be to be able to recover an aircraft
every 45 to 50 seconds, Sager said.
"We brought a very experienced air wing contingent out and then we operated with
standard fleet procedures," Sager said. "Ford was able to handle everything we were
throwing at it from an air wing perspective."
Along with minor software tweaks to Ford's Advanced Arresting Gear, or AAG, which is
its system for landing aircraft, and to its electromagnetic catapults, work continues on four
of Ford's 11 weapons elevators, which are about 92% complete, Rear Adm. James Downey,
program executive officer for aircraft carriers at Naval Sea Systems Command, told
Insider….
Each of Ford's elevators is different and runs on a redesigned electromagnetic system, an
upgrade from the pulley-based elevators on the Nimitz class, Downey said.
"Just like the EMALS or AAG, we find some obsolescence issues and on switches and
things like this," Downey said. "But we don't have an issue where the elevator just doesn't
work in certain situations."
Downey said increased involvement by the Navy and by the ship's builders, including daily
progress reviews, has helped Ford pick up its stride. That has also included establishing a
greater presence from his office in Norfolk, where Ford is homeported, and putting more
industrial workers on the ship while at sea so work can continue uninterrupted….
Ford is scheduled for full-ship shock trials around early summer 2021, followed by a
maintenance period to address any issues discovered.
Ford was once set to deploy in 2024, which would've been years behind schedule, but
Downey said the carrier may be ready for its first deployment sooner than that.
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"We still have to go through our reviews with Navy leadership and in the larger tasking of
carriers, but it's ... trending to the left [i.e., earlier]," Downey said of the timeline.36
A February 2, 2021, opinion column by two Navy admirals states:
As the USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) steamed off the coast of Virginia last week—
qualifying naval aviators from fleet replacement squadrons—The Virginian-Pilot and
Daily Press published a Jan. 28 editorial offering a dated and inaccurate assessment of the
aircraft carrier’s performance and operational accomplishments over the last several
months. Ford is in month 16 of its Post-Delivery Test and Trials (PD&T) period, testing a
host of combat systems, while serving as the primary East Coast carrier qualification
platform for fleet naval aviators.
The ship has conducted nine underway periods since beginning PDT&T in November
2019, and yet the editorial cited a “new assessment,” which omitted data from the last three
underways logged in late 2020—a critical period in the development of both the ship’s
systems and the crew.
In November, for instance, Ford was at sea with her entire Carrier Strike Group (CSG) for
integrated operations. During this underway, CSG-12, Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 8,
Destroyer Squadron Two and elements from the group’s Air and Missile Defense and
Information Warfare teams conducted operations consistent with a CSG’s pre-deployment
training cycles. As previously reported in the newspaper, Ford was “averaging some 50
sorties a day,” with a partial air wing of roughly 35 aircraft flying, approximately 50% of
a fully outfitted air wing using Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) and
Advanced Arresting Gear (AAG) with great success.
Ford has successfully launched and recovered aircraft nearly 6,500 times, and in December,
the crew completed more than 840 launches and arrestments while qualifying 58 new
aviators. The ship also recorded a new single-day record of 170 launches and 175
arrestments in an eight-and-a-half-hour period, eclipsing Ford’s previous record set in
April. In 2020, FORD completed 5,700 aircraft launches and recoveries across six at-sea
periods, which was a sevenfold increase from the ship’s totals in 2018.
The editorial also overlooked Ford’s progress in testing the ship’s command and control
systems during strike group readiness exercises, which play a crucial role in preparing
Ford’s crew and systems for operational employment well ahead of the timeline stated in
the editorial. These integrated strike group operations were conducted in parallel with
planned ship testing and trials, accelerating the Navy’s ability to exercise the ship’s
command and control capability prior to full ship shock trials scheduled for this summer
and the follow-on planned incremental availability.
As the hard-working shipbuilders of Newport News Shipbuilding and countless citizens of
this region have likely seen in local news reports, Ford and her exceptional crew have been
marking significant planned milestones since completing the aircraft carrier’s Post-
Shakedown Availability in October 2019. These milestones include certifying the flight
deck, completing aircraft compatibility testing, embarking the strike group and airwing,
qualifying more than 400 naval aviators, and conducting combat systems certification
preparations during approximately 200 days underway.
Ford is providing significant operational readiness to the fleet commanders, even while in
a test and trial status. In each of Ford’s at-sea periods, the ship’s crew and embarked

36 Courtney Mabeus, “The Navy’s Newest Carrier, Once Criticized as a ‘Floating Barge,’ May Be Ready for Action
Sooner than Expected,” Business Insider, December 22, 2020. See also Robbin Laird, “Aboard USS Ford: More
Weapons, More Launches, Faster & Safer,” Breaking Defense, November 25, 2020.
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squadrons continue to validate and to refine Ford’s technological innovations—
technologies never realized before on any combatant of its kind….
While the editors are right that it is not unusual for the first ship of a class to have
unexpected challenges and delays, Ford is vigorously testing its new technology and
aggressively resolving issues. Ford-class aircraft carriers will serve as the centerpiece of
strike group operations through the 21st century, supporting national strategic objectives.37
Potential Oversight Questions
Potential oversight questions for Congress include the following:
 Why did the Navy accept delivery of CVN-78 from the shipbuilder and
commission the ship into service if most or all of its weapon elevators were not
completed, tested, and certified?
 What steps has the Navy taken since CVN-78 was delivered to the Navy on May
31, 2017, to keep Congress informed of challenges regarding the ship’s weapon
elevators and other ship systems?
 Why is it taking so long to complete, test, and certify the weapon elevators?
 How much is it costing to complete, test, and certify the weapon elevators, and
will the Navy include all of this cost in the ship’s total reported procurement
cost?
 When will the ship start its first deployment, and how much of a delay will that
represent compared to the ship’s original schedule for starting its first
deployment?
 How much additional operational stress is the delay in CVN-78’s first
deployment placing on the Navy’s 10 other aircraft carriers?
 What steps is the Navy taking to ensure that a similar situation does not arise
regarding the construction and initial deployments of CVN-79, CVN-80, and
CVN-81?
Pricing of Proposed Annual Work on CVN-78 Program
Another issue for Congress is whether the Navy has accurately priced the work it is proposing to
do each fiscal year on the CVN-78 program, particularly with regard to completing work on
CVN-78 and implementing the two-carrier contract for CVN-80 and CVN-81.
Cost Growth and Managing Costs within Program Cost Caps
Overview
Another issue for Congress concerns cost growth in the CVN-78 program. Navy efforts to stem
that growth and manage costs so as to stay within the program’s cost caps have been a continuing
oversight issue for Congress several years. Congress in recent years has passed legislation on the

37 John Meier and Craig Clapperton, “Opinion: Cutting-Edge USS Ford Cruising Toward Certification,” Virginian-
Pilot
, February 2, 2021.
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issue that is in addition to the earlier-mentioned legislation that established and amended cost
caps for the ships.38
As shown in Table 2, the estimated procurement costs of CVN-78, CVN-79, and CVN-80 have
grown 27.0%, 24.0%, and 15.0%, respectively, since the submission of the FY2008 budget. As
shown in Table 1, cost growth on CVN-78 required the Navy to program $1,394.9 million in
cost-to-complete (CC) procurement funding for the ship in FY2014-FY2016 and FY2018,39 to
request another $71.0 million in CC funding for CVN-78 for FY2021, and to program another
$74 million in CC funding for CVN-79 for FY2022.
As also shown in Table 2, however, cost growth on CVN-78, CVN-79, and CVN-80 has slowed
since FY2013 and FY2014:
 while the estimated cost of CVN-78 grew considerably between the FY2008
budget (the budget in which CVN-78 was procured) and the FY2014 budget,
since the FY2014 budget, it has grown by only a small amount (3.8%);
 while the estimated cost of CVN-79 grew considerably between the FY2008
budget and the FY2013 budget (in part because the procurement date for the ship
was deferred by one year in the FY2010 budget),40 since the FY2013 budget it
has declined by a small amount (0.11%); and
 while the estimated cost of CVN-80 grew considerably between the FY2008
budget and the FY2013 budget (in part because the procurement date for the ship
was deferred by two years in the FY2010 budget),41 since the FY2013 budget it
has declined by 11.2%.

38 This additional legislation includes:
Section 128 of the FY2016 National Defense Authorization Act (S. 1356/P.L. 114-92 of November 25, 2015), which
established a limitation on availability of funds for CVN–79 until certain conditions were met;
Section 126 of the FY2017 National Defense Authorization Act (S. 2943/P.L. 114-328 of December 23, 2016), which
established a limitation on availability of funds for procurement of CVN–80 until certain conditions were met;
Section 121(b) of the FY2018 National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 2810/P.L. 115-91 of December 12, 2017),
which provided for a waiver on the limitation of availability of funds for CVN–79; and
Section 122 of the FY2020 National Defense Authorization Act (S. 1790/P.L. 116-92 of December 20, 2020), which
modified the above-listed Section 126 of P.L. 114-328 regarding an annual report on cost targets for CVN-78 class
carriers.
39 The Navy’s FY2021 budget submission reflects the reprogramming of $161.5 million of additional funding for
CVN-78 into FY2009, FY2011, and FY2012, including $86.0 million reprogrammed into FY2012. As discussed earlier
in the note to Table 1, even though FY2012 is after FY2011 (CVN-78’s original final year of full funding), the Navy
characterizes the $86.0 million reprogrammed into FY2012 as full funding rather than cost-to-complete funding on the
grounds that in the years since FY2011, as discussed earlier in this report (see footnote 9), the authority to use
incremental funding for procuring aircraft carriers has been expanded by Congress to permit more than the four years
of incremental funding that were permitted at the time that CVN-78 was initially funded.
40 Deferring the ship’s procurement from FY2012 to FY2013 put another year of inflation into the ship’s estimated cost
in then-year dollars (which are the type of dollars shown in Table 2), and may have reduced production learning curve
benefits in shifting from production of CVN-78 to production of CVN-79.
41 Deferring the ship’s procurement from FY2016 to FY2018 put additional years of inflation into the ship’s estimated
cost in then-year dollars (which are the type of dollars shown in Table 2), and may have reduced production learning
curve benefits in shifting from production of CVN-79 to production of CVN-80.
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CVN-78
Past Sources of Cost Growth
A primary source of past cost growth on CVN-78 appears to have been an unrealistically low
original cost estimate for the ship in the FY2008 budget submission, which might have reflected
an underestimate of the intrinsic challenges of building the then-new Ford-class design compared
to those of building the previous and well understood Nimitz-class design.42
In addition to this general cause of past cost growth, additional and more-specific past risks of
cost growth for CVN-78 included certain new systems to be installed on the ship. These included
a new type of aircraft catapult called the Electromagnetic Launch System (EMALS), a new
aircraft arresting system called the Advanced Arresting Gear (AAG), and the ship’s primary radar,
called the Dual Band Radar (DBR). Congress followed these and other sources of risk of cost
growth on CVN-78 for years.
Press Reports
An October 25, 2019, press report stated
The Navy’s most expensive vessel is getting even costlier, as the service says it needs to
add as much as $197 million more to correct deficiencies with the USS Gerald R. Ford
aircraft carrier.
That includes completing the installation and certification of 11 elevators to lift munitions
and other equipment from below decks that were supposed to be ready more than two years
ago.

42 The Congressional Budget office (CBO) in 2008 and GAO in 2007 questioned the accuracy of the Navy’s cost
estimate for CVN-78. CBO reported in June 2008 that it estimated that CVN-78 would cost $11.2 billion in constant
FY2009 dollars, or about $900 million more than the Navy’s estimate of $10.3 billion in constant FY2009 dollars, and
that if “CVN-78 experienced cost growth similar to that of other lead ships that the Navy has purchased in the past 10
years, costs could be much higher still.” CBO also reported that, although the Navy publicly expressed confidence in its
cost estimate for CVN-78, the Navy had assigned a confidence level of less than 50% to its estimate, meaning that the
Navy believed there was more than a 50% chance that the estimate would be exceeded. (Congressional Budget Office,
Resource Implications of the Navy’s Fiscal Year 2009 Shipbuilding Plan, June 9, 2008, p. 20.) GAO reported in
August 2007 that
Costs for CVN 78 will likely exceed the budget for several reasons. First, the Navy’s cost estimate,
which underpins the budget, is optimistic. For example, the Navy assumes that CVN 78 will be
built with fewer labor hours than were needed for the previous two carriers. Second, the Navy’s
target cost for ship construction may not be achievable. The shipbuilder’s initial cost estimate for
construction was 22 percent higher than the Navy’s cost target, which was based on the budget.
Although the Navy and the shipbuilder are working on ways to reduce costs, the actual costs to
build the ship will likely increase above the Navy’s target. Third, the Navy’s ability to manage
issues that affect cost suffers from insufficient cost surveillance. Without effective cost
surveillance, the Navy will not be able to identify early signs of cost growth and take necessary
corrective action.
(Government Accountability Office, Defense Acquisitions[:] Navy Faces Challenges Constructing
the Aircraft Carrier Gerald R. Ford within Budget
, GAO-07-866, August 2007, summary page. See
also Government Accountability Office, Defense Acquisitions[:] Realistic Business Cases Needed
to Execute Navy Shipbuilding Programs
, Statement of Paul L. Francis, Director, Acquisition and
Sourcing Management Team, Testimony Before the Subcommittee on Seapower and Expeditionary
Forces, Committee on Armed Services, House of Representatives, July 24, 2007 (GAO-07-943T),
p. 15.)
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Navy Ford (CVN-78) Class Aircraft Carrier Program: Background and Issues for Congress

The previously undisclosed notification to Congress is on top of an extra $120 million
identified in May 2018 to correct earlier deficiencies. The move last year caused the carrier
to breach a $12.9 billion cost cap set by Congress in an effort to stop spiraling cost
increases. The new request takes the carrier’s estimated cost to $13.22 billion.
The latest funding is needed “to correct deficiencies identified during testing to ensure the
safety of the ship and personnel and to deliver an operational ship to the fleet,” Captain
Danny Hernandez, a Navy spokesman, said in a statement….
More money also is needed to pay for “additional labor to address and correct technical
issues, completing deferred work,” and “there are also time charges associated with a
longer repair period,” the Pentagon comptroller said in an Oct. 7 document to Congress
requesting permission for the Navy to shift $40 million from prior-year programs. The
remaining $157 million would come from funds this fiscal year and 2021, Hernandez
said.43
An October 28, 2019, press report stated
A congressionally-imposed cost cap remains in place on the Ford, however, and the Navy
in late September received permission to add $197 million to the ship’s acquisition cost,
for a new total of $13.224 billion. The new monies were needed, the Navy said in a
statement, “in order to correct deficiencies identified during testing, to ensure the safety of
the ship and personnel, and to deliver an operational ship to the fleet.”
The additional money also includes more for work on the elevators. The new money will
come from the current 2019 budget and the future fiscal 2020 and 2021 budgets.44
An October 30, 2019, press report stated that Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer, at a press
roundtable on that date,
said he has “medium confidence” that a recent $197 million reprogramming request to
Congress to fund more Ford fixes will be enough, simply because “first of classes is tough.”
“I’d be remiss if I said that was the last, to be very frank. I’d rather have the option to say
we’re going to come for more than saying no we’re capped off now. I feel good on what
we’re finally learning on the end of this birthing process,” Spencer said.45
CVNs 79, 80, and 81
Confidence Levels
The Navy states that it is working to control cost growth on CVNs 79, 80, and 81. Even so, the
Navy states that its confidence levels for its estimated procurement costs (not including costs for
class-wide spare parts) for CVNs 79, 80, and 81 were 36%, 22%, and 20% as of June 2019,
respectively, meaning that the Navy as of June 2019 estimated that the risk of future cost growth
on CVNs 79, 80, and 81 were 64%, 78%, and 80%, respectively.46

43 Anthony Capaccio, “Navy’s $13 Billion Carrier Needs Another $197 Million in Fixes,” Bloomberg, October 25,
2019.
44 Christopher P. Cavas, “Heady Days for US Navy’s Carrier Program,” Defense & Aerospace Report, October 28,
2019.
45 Rich Abott, “SECNAV: Ford Issues Due To Cost Cap, Explains Timeline,” Defense Daily, October 30, 2019. See
also Megan Eckstein, “SECNAV Spencer: Carrier Ford Challenges Tied to Costs Caps, Requirements Process,” USNI
News
, October 30, 2019; Paul McCleary, “SecNav Again Blasts Huntington Ingalls On Ford Carriers,” Breaking
Defense
, October 30, 2019.
46 Source: Navy information paper provided to CRS by Navy Office of legislative Affairs on June 20, 2019.
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October 2019 CBO Report
An October 2019 CBO report on the potential cost of the Navy’s 30-year shipbuilding plan states
the following regarding the CVN-78 program:
The Navy’s current estimate of the total cost of the USS Gerald R. Ford, the lead ship of
the CVN-78 class, is $13.1 billion in nominal dollars appropriated over the period from
2001 to 2018. CBO used the Navy’s inflation index for naval shipbuilding to convert that
figure to $16.2 billion in 2019 dollars, or 25 percent more than the corresponding estimate
when the ship was first authorized in 2008. Neither the Navy’s nor CBO’s estimate includes
the $5 billion in research and development costs that apply to the entire class.
Because construction of the lead ship is finished, CBO used the Navy’s estimate for that
ship to estimate the cost of successive ships in the class. But not all of the cost risk has
been eliminated; in particular, the ship’s power systems, advanced arresting gear (the
system used to recover fixed-wing aircraft landing on the ship), and weapons elevators are
not yet working properly. It is not clear how much those problems will cost to fix, but
current Navy estimates suggest that it will be several tens of millions of dollars or more.
CBO does not have enough information to independently estimate those final repair costs.
The next carrier after the CVN-78 is the CVN-79, the John F. Kennedy, which is expected
to be completed in 2024 and deployed in 2026. Funding for the ship began in 2007, the
Congress officially authorized its construction in 2013, and the planned appropriations for
it were completed in 2018. The Navy estimates that the ship will cost $11.3 billion in
nominal dollars (or $11.9 billion in 2019 dollars). The Navy’s 2014 selected acquisition
report on the CVN-79 states that “the Navy and shipbuilder have made fundamental
changes in the manner in which the CVN 79 will be built to incorporate lessons learned
from CVN 78 and eliminate the key contributors to cost performance challenges realized
in the construction of CVN 78.” Nevertheless, the Navy informed CBO that there is a
greater than 60 percent chance that the ship’s final cost will be more than the current
estimate. Although CBO expects the Navy to achieve a considerable cost reduction in the
CVN-79 compared with the CVN-78, as is typical with the second ship of a class, CBO’s
estimate is higher than the Navy’s. Specifically, CBO estimates that the ship will cost $12.4
billion in nominal dollars (or $12.9 billion in 2019 dollars), about 9 percent more than the
Navy’s estimate.
In 2018, the Congress authorized the third carrier of the class, the Enterprise (CVN-80).
Appropriations for that ship began in 2016 and are expected to be complete by 2025. In
2019, the Congress authorized the Navy to purchase materials jointly for the CVN-80 and
the next ship, the CVN-81, to save money by buying in greater quantity. It also authorized
the Navy to change the sequencing involved in building the ships to gain greater
efficiencies in their construction. Although that legislative action is known as a “two-
carrier buy,” the Navy would not be building both ships at exactly the same time.
Purchasing the two ships together would accelerate the CVN-81’s construction by only one
year compared with buying the ships individually as envisioned in the 2019 shipbuilding
plan.
In the 2020 budget, the Navy estimated that the CVN-80 would cost $12.3 billion in
nominal dollars (or $11.4 billion in 2019 dollars). That represents a savings of $300 million
compared with the Navy’s estimate in the 2019 budget. In contrast, CBO estimates that the
CVN-80 would cost $13.6 billion in nominal dollars (or $12.4 billion in 2019 dollars),
about 9 percent more than the Navy’s estimate. In information provided to CBO as part of
the 2019 budget presentation, the Navy indicated that there was a greater than 60 percent
chance that the ship’s final cost will be more than it estimated; in contrast, with the 2020
budget, the Navy puts that figure at 78 percent. Thus, it is not clear whether the service’s
2020 estimates incorporate savings stemming from a two-carrier buy or simply an
acceptance of increased risk of future cost growth.
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With respect to the CVN-81, the pattern is similar. In the 2019 budget, the Navy estimated
the CVN-81 at $15.1 billion in nominal dollars. In the 2020 budget with the two-carrier
buy, the Navy estimated the cost of the ship at $12.6 billion in nominal dollars (or $10.5
billion in 2019 dollars), for a savings of $2.5 billion. However, the Navy also told CBO
that there is an 80 percent chance that the final cost will be higher than the current estimate,
compared with the roughly 40 percent chance indicated in the 2019 budget. CBO estimates
that the CVN-81 would cost $14.4 billion in nominal dollars (or $11.9 billion in 2019
dollars), or 14 percent more than the Navy’s estimate.
Overall, the Navy estimates an average cost of $12.7 billion (in 2019 dollars) for the 7
carriers (CVN-81 through CVN-87) in the 2020 shipbuilding plan. CBO’s estimate is $13.0
billion per ship….47
CVN-79
Navy officials have stated that they are working to control the cost of CVN-79 by equipping the
ship with a less expensive primary radar,48 by turning down opportunities to add features to the
ship that would have made the ship more capable than CVN-78 but would also have increased
CVN-79’s cost, and by using a build strategy for the ship that incorporates improvements over the
build strategy that was used for CVN-78. These build-strategy improvements, Navy officials have
said, include the following items, among others:
 achieving a higher percentage of outfitting of ship modules before modules are
stacked together to form the ship;
 achieving “learning inside the ship,” which means producing similar-looking ship
modules in an assembly line-like series, so as to achieve improved production
learning curve benefits in the production of these modules; and
 more economical ordering of parts and materials including greater use of batch
ordering of parts and materials, as opposed to ordering parts and materials on an
individual basis as each is needed.
An August 5, 2020, press report stated
The Navy vowed that a runaway budget wouldn’t be allowed again after the USS Gerald
Ford, the first in a new class of aircraft carriers, cost a record $13.3 billion. Now, the price
for the second ship is creeping up.
The service’s estimate for shipbuilder Huntington Ingalls Industries Inc. to design and
construct the USS John F. Kennedy has increased to $3.58 billion, up 7% from the $3.35
billion contract awarded in 2015, according to the carrier program’s Selected Acquisition
Report for fiscal 2021.
That underscores previous warnings that the fully outfitted carrier may exceed an $11.4
billion cost cap imposed by Congress. The contractor is falling short by a key measure of
labor efficiency, the Navy said in the report obtained by Bloomberg News.
Its workforce performed 91 cents of work for every Navy dollar spent in the last year, down
from the more acceptable level of 95 cents per dollar over the same timeframe, according
to the report.

47 Congressional Budget Office, An Analysis of the Navy’s Fiscal Year 2020 Shipbuilding Plan, October 2019, pp. 17-
19.
48 See, for example, Megan Eckstein, “PEO Carriers: CVN-79 Will Have a New Radar, Save $180M Compared to
[CVN-78’s] Dual Band Radar,” USNI News, March 17, 2015; Christopher P. Cavas, “Dual Band Radar Swapped Out
In New Carriers,” Defense News, March 17, 2015; Christopher P. Cavas, “New US Carrier Radar Enters the Picture,”
Defense News, March 23, 2015.
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Huntington Ingalls also is falling short of a Navy goal to reduce cumulative labor hours by
at least 18% from the first ship. With the vessel 69% complete, the Kennedy is performing
at a 16% improvement over the Ford at the same point, Captain Danny Hernandez, a Navy
spokesman, said in an email.
Hernandez said the cost report’s figures stem in part from changes such as improvements
in warfare capability and lessons learned from the Ford’s recent post-delivery “shakedown”
sea trials. There are additional costs “from congressional direction” requiring that the
Kennedy be capable of deploying with F-35 jets by mid-2025, he said.
The cost increases are also “due to delays relating to electrical, sheet metal, painting and
platform engineering work,” the Navy said in the Selected Acquisition Report. The JFK is
expected to be delivered in 2024….
But the report warned that “if the current cost performance continues, then the budget will
be exhausted prior to the completion” of the carrier. That could force the Defense
Department to make the case to lawmakers for easing the cost cap.
Beci Brenton, a spokeswoman for Newport News, Virginia-based Huntington Ingalls, said
the carrier’s construction is about 72% complete. The company “continues to see the
benefits associated with significant build strategy changes and incorporation of lessons
learned” from its predecessor.
“We track cost and schedule trends continuously and share that information with our
customer,” the Navy, Brenton said.49
A November 7, 2019, press report states
It was a joyous day for Mike Butler and his enormous crew of shipyard workers who have
labored for the past four years to build America’s next super carrier.
The program director for CVN-79, the future aircraft carrier John F. Kennedy, donned a
hardhat and briefed assembled members of the press on Oct. 29, eager to tout the progress
he and his colleagues made.
“Today we’re going to flood the dock, it’s the first time the ship will be in the water since
we started construction, since we started in August 2015,” Butler said. “It will take about
10 hours. Dock holds about 160 million gallons of water, so it will take some time to get
in here. … And we’re flooding the dock about three months ahead of schedule, so that’s a
great accomplishment for our folks.”
Kennedy is about 1,300 tons heavier than the aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford was at the
same point in its life span, and Butler said that’s an indication of Kennedy’s solid progress.
“There was a significant amount of change and improvements in how we built this ship
that are helping us build this ship cheaper than we have on CVN-78,” he said, referring to
the Ford.
For Butler and his workforce at Huntington Ingalls Industries’ Newport News, Virginia,
shipyard, the Kennedy is a chance to right the ship and demonstrate the yard can learn from
its challenges with Ford, even as the first-in-class aircraft carrier has become embroiled in
yet another controversy over delays.…
“The main thing we did was shift more work earlier in the process,” Butler said. “We
moved a lot of work traditionally done on the ship to our final assembly platen, and that
moved it to an area more conducive to better efficiency and better cost. We got a lot of that
work done earlier than we had done before.

49 Anthony Capaccio, “Next Carrier’s Cost Creeps Up After First One Hit $13.3 Billion,” Bloomberg, August 5, 2020.
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“That allows us to build larger super-lifts and put more outfitting in before we erected them
on the ship.”
The new approach at Newport News has been empowered by digital renderings that allow
workers to build out spaces with a greater level of detail before piecing together the ship.
“The main difference is with the product model, early on with the 3D-designed product
model—without that we could not have moved so much work earlier. For example, with
Nimitz class, we had a lot of hole cuts in bulkheads for piping and electrical to pass through.
On Nimitz class, most of that was cut on the ship. Here, we cut virtually all those holes in
the shop. We mounted a lot of equipment in the shop. We could have never done that
without the product model.
“And without the product model, we would have never been able to do the digital work
packages and things that we are able to do electronically.”
One of the major issues facing Newport News has been its relatively inexperienced labor
force. Many of the older, most skilled workers are retiring. That, coupled with a reduction
in the Navy’s overall shipbuilding needs in past decades, has put pressure on the remaining
pool of skilled labor from which shipyards like Newport News can draw.
That’s prompted hiring of new workers and training of a new generation of skilled workers
in places such as Connecticut’s General Dynamics Electric Boat and in Hampton Roads,
Virginia. However, the delays associated with training new workers who perform tasks
more slowly than a more experienced workforce can impact the final cost of a ship, either
sticking the Navy with a higher bill or taking a bite out of company profits, depending on
how a contract is structured.
“Big picture is that it’s not really a challenge [having a green workforce],” Butler said.
“We’ve hired about 8,000 people in the last couple of years. Of course, that means we have
to bring them in and train them to be shipbuilders, which takes some time, but there is an
advantage to having a new and younger workforce.
“Especially as we move to more digital, electronic work packages. The younger workforce
is much more adept at that, and it’s working very well.”50
Issues Raised in January 2021 DOT&E and June 2020 GAO Reports
Another oversight issue for Congress concerns CVN-78 program issues raised in a January 2021
report from DOD’s Director, Operational Test and Evaluation (DOT&E)—DOT&E’s annual
report for FY2020—and the 2020 edition of the Government Accountability Office’s (GAO’s)
annual report surveying selected DOD weapon acquisition programs, which was published in
June 2020.
January 2021 DOT&E Report
Regarding the CVN-78 program, the January 2021 DOT&E report stated the following in part:
Assessment
• As noted in previous annual reports, the test schedule has been aggressive. The extension
in PSA [post-shakedown availability]51 delayed both phases of initial operational testing
until FY22.

50 David B. Larter, “Amid the Latest Ford Controversy, a Green Workforce Is Making Rapid Progress on Its Sister
Ship,” Defense News, November 7, 2019.
51 A post-shakedown availability is a maintenance availability (i.e., a maintenance period) that takes place after a ship’s
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• TEMP [test and evaluation master plan] Revision D outlines the Navy’s cybersecurity
strategy to test CVN 78, but has not translated the strategy into an actionable test plan.
Reliability
• Four of CVN 78’s new systems stand out as critical to flight operations: EMALS, AAG,
DBR, and AWE. Overall, the low reliability demonstrated by AAG, EMALS, and DBR,
along with the uncertain reliability of AWE, could further delay the CVN 78 IOT&E [initial
operational test and evaluation]. Reliability estimates derived from test data for EMALS,
AAG, and DBR are discussed in following subsections. For AWE, preliminary reliability
estimates have been provided on 6 of the 11 elevators, the only ones certified.
EMALS52
• The delivery of the EMALS launch bulletins allows CVN 78 to launch all aircraft in the
ship’s Air Wing.
• During the 3,975 catapult launches conducted post PSA through ISE [independent
steaming event] 11, EMALS demonstrated an achieved reliability of 181 mean cycles
between operational mission failure (MCBOMF), where a cycle is the launch of one
aircraft. This reliability is well below the requirement of 4,166 MCBOMF.
• During ISE 8, two separate failures caused individual EMALS catapults to go down for
3 days. One of the failures was attributed to a legacy component.
• The reliability concerns are exacerbated by the fact that the crew cannot readily
electrically isolate EMALS components during flight operations due to the shared nature
of the Energy Storage Groups and Power Conversion Subsystem inverters on board CVN
78. The process for electrically isolating equipment is time-consuming; spinning down the
EMALS motor/generators takes 1.5 hours by itself. This inability precludes EMALS high
power maintenance during flight operations.
AAG
• Through the first 3,975 recoveries, AAG demonstrated an achieved reliability of 48
MCBOMF, where a cycle is the recovery of a single aircraft. This reliability estimate falls
well below the requirement of 16,500 MCBOMF.
• While in port prior to ISE 9, during maintenance troubleshooting, the AAG system
experienced a failure of an Energy Storage Capacitor Bank, which rendered all three
engines inoperative. It took the Navy 7 days to investigate the failure and bring AAG back
into service by mechanically isolating the failed capacitor bank. The failed parts were
repaired during a later in-port period.
• The reliability concerns are magnified by the current AAG design that does not allow
electrical isolation of the Power Conditioning Subsystem equipment from high power
buses, limiting corrective maintenance on below-deck equipment during flight operations.

shakedown cruise, which an initial cruise that is intended in part to identify problems with the ship’s construction and
equipment.
52 For additional discussion regarding the reliability of EMALS, see Sam LaGrone, “USS Gerald Ford EMALS
Launching System Suffers Fault During Testing Period,” USNI News, June 8 (updated June 12), 2020; Rich Abott,
“Ford EMALS Went Down During Testing At Sea,” Defense Daily, June 8, 2020; Mallory Shelbourne, “EMALS
Aboard Ford Went Out, Interrupting Flight Operations,” Inside Defense, June 9, 2020; Gina Harkins, “Navy Carrier
Ford's High-Tech EMALS Catapult System Breaks During Sea Trials,” Military.com, June 11, 2020; Mallory
Shelbourne, “Geurts: Navy Still Working to Diagnose Problem That Caused EMALS Failure on Ford,” Inside Defense,
June 18, 2020; Megan Eckstein, “Navy Unsure If Recent EMALS Fault Was Equipment or Procedure Problem, But
Workaround Has Been Validated,” USNI News, June 19, 2020.
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Combat System
• Post-PSA sea-based developmental test events show the DBR still experiences clutter
tracks, but to a smaller extent and of a different origin than previously reported. The events
also show that CEC [cooperative engagement capability],53 in certain conditions, provides
inaccurate tracking of air contacts. During these events, SEWIP [surface electronic warfare
improvement program]54 Block 2 created undesired emitter tracks that could cause the ship
to expend more ESSMs [Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles] and RAMs [Rolling Airframe
Missiles] than necessary to destroy incoming threats.
• The Navy is satisfied with the DBR track support for Air Traffic Control (ATC) after
post-PSA at-sea testing. The DBR successfully suppresses the disclosure of the majority
of environmental tracks when it sends tracks to [the] TPX-42 [shipboad air traffic control
(ATC) system]. The Navy does not plan to conduct any further ATC-type aircraft flights
during sea-based developmental testing.
• During the August 2020 missile firing operational test on SDTS [self-defense test ship],
the system demonstrated good tracking performance of the targets by MFR [multi-function
radar] and CEC, and good engagement support by the SSDS [ship self-defense system]
MK 2 Mod 6 element, which correctly provided scheduling and weapon assignments.
SEWIP Block 2 emitter reporting interfered with optimal engagements against threats.
Several problems contributed to the failure of some ESSMs and RAMs to destroy their
intended targets.
• Results of live testing completed to date indicate that CVN 78 has limited self-defense
capability against ASCM [anti-ship cruise missile] surrogates, but several challenges
persist with respect to the efficacy of the ship’s combat system.
• Post PSA through ISE 11, DBR demonstrated a mean time between operational mission
failures (MTBOMF) of 100 hours, below the requirement of 339 hours.
• Preliminary results of EASR’s [enterprise air surveillance radar]55 early developmental
testing indicate that electromagnetic interference, tracking performance, electronic
protection, and power compliance testing are focal areas for ongoing system developmental
work and improvements. Until operationally relevant reliability data are supplied to
DOT&E, system reliability remains a significant risk area for EASR. EASR’s combat
system integration remains untested.
• Planned operational tests of the CVN 78 combat system continue to be delayed or have
been canceled. In the 2006 Capstone Enterprise Air Warfare Ship Self-Defense TEMP, the
Navy planned to leverage commonality between the DDG 1000 [destroyer] and CVN 78
combat systems to reduce the number of operational test events conducted on each ship.
However, subsequent changes to the DDG 1000 combat system reduced commonality
between the two ships and negated the ability to leverage testing and resources across the
two combat systems.
• DOT&E recognizes that the CVN 78 Air Warfare test program is resource-limited
because the Enterprise Air Warfare approach was not executable due to the divergence of
the DDG 1000 and CVN 78 combat systems. DOT&E accepts this limitation expecting
that the Navy will plan and execute an adequate air warfare test program for CVN 79. The

53 The CEC system permits data from sensors on multiple ships to be fused together, so as to improve radar tracking
and target engagement.
54 The SEWIP system is the Navy’s new surface-ship electronic warfare system.
55 The use of the word enterprise in this context is not a reference to the name of CVN-80; it is instead a reference to
the surface ship community, or enterprise. The use term in the radar’s name denotes that the Navy envisages installing
the radar on multiple ship classes within the community.
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CVN 79 test campaign is also intended to inform CVN 78 combat system performance
once it is retrofitted with planned changes.
SGR
• CVN 78 is unlikely to achieve its SGR [sortie generation rate] requirement. The target
threshold is based on unrealistic assumptions including fair weather and unlimited
visibility, and that aircraft emergencies, failures of shipboard equipment, ship maneuvers,
and manning shortfalls will not affect flight operations. During the 2013 operational
assessment, DOT&E conducted an analysis of past aircraft carrier operations in major
conflicts. The analysis concludes that the CVN 78 SGR threshold requirement is well
above historical levels.
• DOT&E plans to assess CVN 78 performance during IOT&E by comparing it to the SGR
requirement, as well as to the demonstrated performance of the Nimitz-class carriers.
• Poor reliability of key systems that support sortie generation on CVN 78 could cause a
cascading series of delays during flight operations that would affect CVN 78’s ability to
generate sorties. The poor or unknown reliability of these critical subsystems represents
the most risk to the successful completion of CVN 78 IOT&E.
Manning
• Reduced manning requirements drove the design of CVN 78. The berthing capacity is
4,660, or 1,100 fewer than Nimitz-class carriers. Based on current expected manning, the
berthing capacity for officers and enlisted will be exceeded with some variability in the
estimates depending on the specific scenario examined.
Electromagnetic Compatibility
• Developmental testing identified significant electromagnetic radiation hazard and
interference problems. The Navy implemented some mitigation measures and conducted
follow-on characterization testing during ISEs, but some operational limitations and
restrictions are expected to persist into IOT&E and deployment. The Navy will need to
develop capability assessments at differing levels of system use in order for commanders
to make informed decisions on system employment.
Live Fire Test & Evaluation
• In FY20, the Navy continued with the shock qualification testing of CVN 78 components
to support the survivability evaluation of CVN 78 to underwater threat engagements. Due
to scarcity of test assets, some components and systems (e.g., DBR) will not be shock
qualified before the FSST [full-ship shock trial].
• Adequate use of M&S [modeling and simulation] in the vulnerability evaluation of the
ship against underwater threats is at risk. Challenges with the Navy Enhanced Sierra
Mechanics M&S tool prompted the Navy to switch back to the Dynamic Systems
Mechanics Advanced Simulation M&S tool to complete the vulnerability assessment
report. While necessary, the change will require additional verification and validation to
ensure the credibility of the survivability evaluation.
Recommendations
The Navy should:
1. Continue to characterize the electromagnetic environment on board CVN 78 and develop
operating procedures to maximize system effectiveness and maintain safety. As applicable,
the Navy should use the lessons learned from CVN 78 to inform design modifications for
CVN 79 and future carriers.
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2. Implement the required software changes to multiple combat system elements to allow
cueing from external sources necessary to conduct one of the two remaining SDTS test
events.
3. Conduct both remaining SDTS combat system test events for CVN 78.
4. Correct the cause of combat system failures that led to ESSMs and RAMs missing their
intended targets, and demonstrate the correction in a future phase of operational testing.
5. Fund the CVN 78 lead ship combat system operational testing and the M&S suite
required to support assessment of the CVN 78 PRA [probability of raid annihilation]56
requirement.
6. Conduct an operational assessment of EASR at Wallops Island, Virginia. This testing
should evaluate EASR’s contributions to the air traffic control and self‑defense missions,
as well as provide an early assessment of electromagnetic interference and radiation hazard
concerns.
7. Update TEMP 1610 to include cybersecurity testing on CVN 78 and CVN 79 testing
driven by the changes to the ship’s combat system, including the introduction of EASR.
8. Complete validation of the M&S tools supporting the LFT&E [live-fire test and
evaluation] assessment, including comparison of the FSST data to relevant M&S
predictions.
9. Continue to improve availability and reliability for EMALS, AAG, DBR, and AWE.57
June 2020 GAO Report
The June 2020 GAO report, which covers some issues previously discussed in this CRS report,
stated the following:
Technology Maturity, Design Stability, and Production Readiness
This year the Navy reported that all 12 of the Ford Class’s critical technologies were fully
mature, an increase from the nine technologies that were mature at delivery. However,
while the Navy assessed the advanced weapons elevators as mature, it ended the first post-
delivery maintenance period in October 2019 with only four of the 11 elevators certified
to operate. Further, none of the elevators that operate between the main deck and the lower
decks are currently operational, which means the elevators are still not capable of bringing
munitions to the flight deck. The Navy is working with the shipbuilder to complete all
elevator work by Spring 2021—an 18-month delay from the schedule we reported last year.
The Navy also constructed a land-based site to test the performance and reliability of the
elevators, which is expected to be ready in early 2021.
Despite maturing its critical technologies, the Navy is still struggling to demonstrate the
reliability of key systems, including the electromagnetic aircraft launch system (EMALS);
Advanced Arresting Gear (AAG); and dual band radar (DBR). The Navy is continuing
shipboard testing for these systems but has delayed operational testing by 18 months while
it revises the test schedule to coordinate test schedules and complete deployment
preparations. Although the Navy is testing EMALS and AAG on the ship with aircraft, the
reliability of those systems remains a concern. If these systems cannot function safely by
the time operational testing begins, CVN 78 will not be able to demonstrate it can rapidly
deploy aircraft—a key requirement for these carriers.

56 PRA is a measurement of the ship’s ability to defeat (i.e., annihilate) an attack (i.e., raid) consisting of multiple
enemy anti-ship missiles.
57 Department of Defense, Director, Operational Test & Evaluation, FY2020 Annual Report, January 2021, pp. 137-
139.
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Challenges in maturing CVN 78’s critical technologies has led to their redesign or
replacement on later ships in some cases. CVN 79 repeats the CVN 78 design with some
modifications and replaces DBR with the Enterprise Air Surveillance Radar (EASR),
which is in development. The Navy plans to procure two EASR units for CVNs 79 and 80
and install the CVN 79 unit during that ship’s second phase of delivery. CVNs 80 and 81
will repeat the design of CVN 79.
Software and Cybersecurity
Software development for CVN 78’s critical technologies is managed through separate
program offices. For example, a separate program office manages AAG and EMALS,
which rely on a mix of commercial and custom software. According to program officials,
the Navy assessed these systems for cybersecurity vulnerabilities in August and October
2019. According to CVN 78 program officials, other ship systems have also undergone, or
are scheduled to undergo, cybersecurity penetration or adversarial testing. The program is
scheduled to complete an evaluation for potential cybersecurity vulnerabilities connected
with section 1647 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016 in May
2022.
Other Program Issues
In September 2019, the Navy increased the CVN 78 cost cap by $197 million to $13.2
billion in part to correct deficiencies in the advanced weapons elevators. This is the Navy’s
third adjustment to the cost cap since 2017. CVN 78’s procurement costs increased by over
$2.7 billion from its initial cost cap. Continuing technical deficiencies mean the Navy may
still require more funding to complete this ship.
Further, the Navy is unlikely to obtain planned cost savings and construction efficiencies
on the next three ships in the Ford class. We previously reported on the optimistic cost and
labor assumptions for CVN 79, based on a projected 18 percent labor hour reduction
compared to hours to construct CVN 78. In 2019 the shipbuilder increased the estimated
cost at completion due to using more labor hours for CVN 79 than expected. In addition,
the Navy awarded a contract to buy two carriers simultaneously—CVNs 80 and 81—based
on the assumption that this strategy will save the Navy over $4 billion. However, the
Navy’s cost analysis showed that CVN 80 and 81 have a high likelihood of experiencing
cost overruns, and it is uncertain whether the Navy can achieve the expected savings. The
Navy assumed a further reduction in labor hours compared to CVN 79—about 25 percent
fewer labor hours than CVN 78—will contribute to cost savings for these ships.
Program Office Comments
We provided a draft of this assessment to the program office for review and comment. The
program office provided technical comments, which we incorporated where appropriate.
The program office stated that CVN 78 is in an 18-month post-delivery testing phase;
completed over 2,000 aircraft launches and recoveries since delivery in May 2017; and
completed numerous test events and certifications. According to the program office, the
Navy certified four elevators and plans to certify two more in April and September of 2020,
and five remaining elevators are on track for certification in fiscal year 2021. The program
stated that the Navy launched CVN 79 2 months ahead of schedule in December 2019, and
construction is 70 percent complete. It also said Navy leadership approved a change for
CVN 79 from a two-phase acquisition to a single phase delivery strategy and released a
request for proposals for this new approach in January 2020. Additionally, the program
stated that the Navy awarded the CVNs 80 and 81 detail design and construction contract
in January 2019 and projected savings of over $4 billion compared to a single ship contract;
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CVN 80 construction is 3 percent complete and scheduled for delivery in 2028; and CVN
81 has begun material procurement and is scheduled for delivery in 2032.58
Procurement of Aircraft Carriers After CVN-81
Overview
Another oversight issue for Congress concerns the procurement of aircraft carriers after CVN-81.
The question of whether the Navy should shift at some point from procuring CVNs like the CVN-
78 class to procuring smaller and perhaps nonnuclear-powered aircraft carriers has been a
recurrent matter of discussion and Navy study over the years, and is currently an active discussion
in the Navy.
The Navy’s FY2020 30-year shipbuilding plan calls for procuring the next carrier in FY2028, and
for that carrier to be a CVN, which would make it CVN-82. As discussed earlier, the December 9,
2020, Navy force structure and shipbuilding document submitted by the outgoing Trump
Administration calls for a total of 8 to 11 CVNs and 0 to 6 smaller aircraft carriers called light
aircraft carriers (CVLs). The Navy does not currently operate CVLs. The 30-year shipbuilding
profile presented in the December 9, 2020, document includes the projected procurement of an
aircraft carrier in FY2028.
A February 1, 2021, press report states:
The Navy’s engineering community has already started conducting light carrier design and
engineering studies, even as the Navy and the joint force still consider whether they’d even
want to invest in a CVL to supplement supercarriers to bring more distributed capability to
the fleet for less cost.
The idea of a light carrier resurfaced last summer as a Pentagon-led Future Naval Force
Study was nearing its completion. The idea hadn’t appeared in Navy and Marine Corps
plans, but then-Defense Secretary Mark Esper had a growing interest in the topic as he
sought ways to keep future shipbuilding and sustainment costs down and as he worried
about the Navy’s ability to conduct maintenance on its nuclear-powered aircraft carriers at
Navy-run public shipyards.
The FNFS and the plan it produced, Battle Force 2045, ultimately recommended between
zero and six light carriers and noted much more study would need to be done.
That work is already happening at Naval Sea Systems Command within the engineering
and logistics directorate (SEA 05).
Rear Adm. Jason Lloyd, the SEA 05 commander and deputy commander for ship design,
integration and engineering, said last week that his Cost Engineering and Industrial
Analysis team has been studying different options to understand what operational utility
the Navy would get out of each design and for what cost compared to the Ford-class carrier,
“and then let the operators really, and the Navy, decide, hey, do we want that capability for
that cost?”

58 Government Accountability Office, Defense Acquisitions Annual Assessment[:] Drive to Deliver Capabilities Faster
Increases Importance of Program Knowledge and Consistent Data for Oversight
, GAO-20-439, June 2020, p. 120. See
also Anthony Capaccio, “Navy’s Priciest Carrier Ever Struggles to Get Jets On, Off Deck,” Bloomberg, January 9,
2021.
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“We have looked at an America-class possibility,59 we have looked at a Ford-class-light,60
we’ve looked at various different options and done cost studies on all those options. There
are also capabilities studies on all those options,” Lloyd said last week while speaking at a
virtual event hosted by the American Society of Naval Engineers.61
Advocates of smaller carriers traditionally have argued that they are individually less expensive
to procure, that the Navy might be able to employ competition between shipyards in their
procurement (something that the Navy cannot do with large-deck, nuclear-powered carriers like
the CVN-78 class, because only one U.S. shipyard, HII/NNS, can build aircraft carriers of that
size), and that today’s aircraft carriers concentrate much of the Navy’s striking power into a
relatively small number of expensive platforms that adversaries could focus on attacking in time
of war.
Supporters of CVNs traditionally have argued that smaller carriers, though individually less
expensive to procure, are less cost-effective in terms of dollars spent per aircraft embarked or
aircraft sorties that can be generated, that it might be possible to use competition in procuring
certain materials and components for large-deck, nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, and that
smaller carriers, though perhaps affordable in larger numbers, would be individually less
survivable in time of war than CVNs.
Section 128(d) of the FY2016 National Defense Authorization Act (S. 1356/P.L. 114-92 of
November 25, 2015) required the Navy to submit a report on potential requirements, capabilities,
and alternatives for the future development of aircraft carriers that would replace or supplement
the CVN–78 class aircraft carrier. The report, which was conducted for the Navy by the RAND
Corporation, was delivered to the congressional defense committees in classified form in July
2016. An unclassified version of the report was then prepared and issued in 2017 as a publicly
released RAND report.62 The question of whether to shift to smaller aircraft carriers was also
addressed in three studies on future fleet architecture that were required by Section 1067 of the
FY2016 National Defense Authorization Act (S. 1356/P.L. 114-92 of November 25, 2015).
A reduction in the force-level goal for CVNs from the current statutory goal of 12 ships to the
range of 8 to 11 ships shown in the December 9, 2020, document—could lead to one or more of
the following:
 accelerated retirements for one or more Nimitz-class carriers that have already
received their mid-life nuclear refueling overhauls (which are called Refueling
Complex Overhauls, or RCOHs);
 the cancellation of one or more planned RCOHs for Nimitz-class carriers that
have not yet received RCOHs, and the consequent early retirement of one or
more of these ships;

59 This is a reference to a CVL whose design is based on that of the America (LHA-6) class amphibious assault ship.
For more on the LHA program and on the possibility of an LHA-based CVL design, see CRS Report R43543, Navy
LPD-17 Flight II and LHA Amphibious Ship Programs: Background and Issues for Congress
, by Ronald O'Rourke.
60 This is a reference to a carrier whose design is similar to that of the CVN-78 design, but with some of the CVN-78
design’s features reduced or removed, resulting in a ship whose procurement cost and capability are less than that of the
CVN-78 design.
61 Megan Eckstein, “Light Carrier Studies Already Underway As Navy Considers Role for CVLs in Future Fleet,”
USNI News, February 1, 2021. See also Joseph Trevithick, “Navy Looking At America And Ford Class Derivatives In
New Light Aircraft Carrier Studies,” The Drive, February 2, 2021.
62 Bradley Martin and Michael McMahon, Future Aircraft Carrier Options, Santa Monica, CA, RAND Corporation,
2017, 87 pp.
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 a deferral or cancellation of the procurement of CVN-82, which under the Navy’s
FY2020 30-year shipbuilding plan was scheduled for FY2028; and/or
 the deferral or cancellation of the construction of CVN-81, which could require
modifying the current two-ship construction contract for CVN-80 and CVN-81.
Shock Trial
An earlier oversight issue for Congress for the CVN-78 program was whether to conduct the
shock trial for the CVN-78 class in the near term, on the lead ship in the class, or years later, on
the second ship in the class. For background information on that issue, see Appendix B.
Legislative Activity for FY2022
The Navy’s proposed FY2022 budget will be submitted to Congress later this year.
Legislative Activity for FY2021
Summary of Congressional Action on FY2021 Funding Request
Table 3
summarizes congressional action on the FY2021 procurement funding request for the
CVN-78 program.
Table 3. Congressional Action on FY2021 Procurement Funding Request
Millions of dollars, rounded to nearest tenth.
Authorization
Appropriation

Request
HASC
SASC
Conf.
HAC
SAC
Conf.
CVN-78
71.0
71.0
71.0
71.0
71.0
71.0
71.0
CVN-79
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
CVN-80
997.5
907.5
997.5
907.5
904.8
997.5
958.9
CVN-81
1,645.6
1,465.6
1,645.6
1,606.4
1,606.4
1,645.6
1,606.4
Total above
2,714.1
2,444.1
2,714.1
2,584.9
2,582.2
2,714.1
2,565.4
Source: Table prepared by CRS based on Navy’s FY2021 budget submission, committee and conference
reports, and explanatory statements on FY2021 National Defense Authorization Act and FY2020 DOD
Appropriations Act.
Notes: HASC is House Armed Services Committee; SASC is Senate Armed Services Committee; HAC is
House Appropriations Committee; SAC is Senate Appropriations Committee; Conf. is conference agreement.
FY2021 National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 6395/S. 4049/P.L.
116-283)

House
The House Armed Services Committee, in its report (H.Rept. 116-442 of July 9, 2020) on H.R.
6395, recommended the funding levels shown in the HASC column of Table 3. The
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recommended reductions of $90.0 million for CVN-80 and $180.0 million for CVN-81 are for “
Full funding early to need.” (Page 344)
Section 1042 of H.R. 6395 as reported by the committee states
SEC. 1042. PROHIBITION ON RETIREMENT OF NUCLEAR POWERED AIRCRAFT
CARRIERS BEFORE FIRST REFUELING.
Section 8062 of title 10, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following
new subsection:
‘‘(f) A nuclear powered aircraft carrier may not be retired before its first refueling.’’.
Senate
The Senate Armed Services Committee, in its report (S.Rept. 116-236 of June 24, 2020) on S.
4049, recommended the funding levels shown in the SASC column of Table 3.
Section 126 of S. 4049 as reported by the committee states
SEC. 126. TREATMENT OF SYSTEMS ADDED BY CONGRESS IN FUTURE
PRESIDENT’S BUDGET REQUESTS.
A procurement quantity of a system authorized by Congress in a National Defense
Authorization Act for a given fiscal year that is subsequently appropriated by Congress in
an amount greater than the quantity of such system included in the President’s annual
budget request submitted to Congress under section 1105 of title 31, United States Code,
for such fiscal year shall not be included as a new procurement quantity in future annual
budget requests.
Regarding Section 126, S.Rept. 116-236 states
Treatment of weapon systems added by Congress in future President’s budget
requests (sec. 126)

The committee recommends a provision that would preclude the inclusion in future annual
budget requests of a procurement quantity of a system previously authorized and
appropriated by the Congress that was greater than the quantity of such system requested
in the President’s budget request.
The committee is concerned that by presenting CVN–81 as a ship that was procured in
fiscal year 2020 (instead of as a ship that was procured in fiscal year 2019), LPD–31 as a
ship requested for procurement in fiscal year 2021 (instead of as a ship that was procured
in fiscal year 2020), and LHA–9 as a ship projected for procurement in fiscal year 2023
(instead of as a ship that was procured in fiscal year 2020), the Department of Defense, in
its fiscal year 2021 budget submission, is disregarding or mischaracterizing the actions of
Congress regarding the procurement dates of these three ships. (Page 11)
Section 127 of S. 4049 as reported by the committee states
SEC. 127. REPORT ON CARRIER WING COMPOSITION.
(a) REPORT.—Not later than May 1, 2021, the Secretary of the Navy, in consultation with
the Chief of Naval Operations and Commandant of the Marine Corps, shall submit to the
congressional defense committees a report on the optimal composition of the carrier air
wing in 2030 and 2040, as well as alternative force design concepts.
(b) ELEMENTS.—The report required under subsection (a) shall include the following
elements:
(1) An analysis and justification used to reach the 50-50 mix of 4th and 5th generation
aircraft for 2030.
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(2) An analysis and justification for the optimal mix of carrier aircraft for 2040.
(3) A plan for incorporating unmanned aerial vehicles and associated communication
capabilities to effectively implement the future force design.
Conference
The conference report (H.Rept. 116-617 of December 3, 2020) on H.R. 6395/P.L. 116-283 of
January 1, 2021, recommends the funding levels shown in the authorization conference column of
Table 3. The recommended reduction of $90.0 million for CVN-80 and the recommended
reduction of $39.174 million for CVN-81 are for “Full funding early to need.” (PDF page 4276 of
4517)
Section 126 of the conference version of H.R. 6395 states
SEC. 126. TREATMENT IN FUTURE BUDGETS OF THE PRESIDENT OF SYSTEMS
ADDED BY CONGRESS.
In the event the procurement quantity for a system authorized by Congress in a National
Defense Authorization Act for a fiscal year, and for which funds for such procurement
quantity are appropriated by Congress in the Shipbuilding and Conversion, Navy account
for such fiscal year, exceeds the procurement quantity specified in the budget of the
President, as submitted to Congress under section 1105 of title 31, United States Code, for
such fiscal year, such excess procurement quantity shall not be specified as a new
procurement quantity in any budget of the President, as so submitted, for any fiscal year
after such fiscal year.
Regarding Section 126, H.Rept. 116-617 states
Treatment in future budgets of the President of systems added by Congress (sec. 126)
The Senate amendment contained a provision (sec. 126) that would preclude the inclusion
in future annual budget requests of a procurement quantity of a system previously
authorized and appropriated by the Congress that was greater than the quantity of such
system requested in the President’s Budget request.
The House bill contained no similar provision.
The House recedes with an amendment that would limit the effect of this provision to the
Shipbuilding and Conversion, Navy account. (PDF page 3734 of 4517)
Section 1054 of the conference version of H.R. 6395 states
SEC. 1054. PROHIBITION ON RETIREMENT OF NUCLEAR POWERED AIRCRAFT
CARRIERS BEFORE FIRST REFUELING.
Section 8062 of title 10, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following
new subsection:
‘‘(f) A nuclear powered aircraft carrier may not be retired before its first refueling.’’.
H.Rept. 116-617 also states
Report on carrier wing composition
The Senate amendment contained a provision (sec. 127) that would direct the Secretary of
the Navy, in consultation with the Chief of Naval Operations and Commandant of the
Marine Corps, to submit a report to the congressional defense committees, not later than
May 1, 2021, on the optimal compositions of the carrier air wing in 2030 and 2040, as well
as alternative force design concepts.
The House bill contained no similar provision.
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The Senate recedes. (PDF page 3752 of 4517)
FY2021 DOD Appropriations Act (H.R. 7617/S. XXXX/Division C of
H.R. 133/P.L. 116-260)

House
The House Appropriations Committee, in its report (H.Rept. 116-453 of July 16, 2020) on H.R.
7617, recommended the funding levels shown in the HAC column of Table 3. The recommended
reductions of $92.744 million for CVN-80 and $39.174 million for CVN-81 are for “Hardware
procurements early to need.” (Page 184)
Senate
The Senate Appropriations Committee, in the explanatory statement for S. XXXX that the
committee released on November 10, 2020, recommended the funding levels shown in the SAC
column of Table 3.
Conference
The explanatory statement for the final version of the FY2021 DOD Appropriations Act (Division
C of H.R. 133/P.L. 116-260 of December 27, 2020), the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021)
provides the funding levels shown in the appropriation conference column of Table 3. The
reductions of $38.611 million for CVN-80 and $39.174 million for CVN-81 are for “Hardware
procurements early to need.” (PDF page 203 of 469)


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Appendix A. Background Information on Two-Ship
Block Buy for CVN-80 and CVN-81
This appendix presents additional background information on the two-ship block buy contract for
CVN-80 and CVN-81.
The option for procuring two CVN-78 class carriers under a two-ship block buy contract had
been discussed in this CRS report since April 2012.63 In earlier years, the discussion focused on
the option of using a block buy contract for procuring CVN-79 and CVN-80. In more recent
years, interest among policymakers focused on the option of using a block buy contract for
procuring CVN-80 and CVN-81.
On March 19, 2018, the Navy released a request for proposal (RFP) to Huntington Ingalls
Industries/Newport News Shipbuilding (HII/NNS) regarding a two-ship buy of some kind for
CVN-80 and CVN-81. A March 20, 2018, Navy News Service report stated the following:
The Navy released a CVN 80/81 two-ship buy Request for Proposal (RFP) to Huntington
Ingalls Industries—Newport News Shipbuilding (HII-NNS) March 19 to further define the
cost savings achievable with a two-ship buy.
With lethality and affordability a top priority, the Navy has been working with HII-NNS
over the last several months to estimate the total savings associated with procuring CVN
80 and CVN 81 as a two-ship buy.
“In keeping with the National Defense Strategy, the Navy developed an acquisition strategy
to combine the CVN 80 and CVN 81 procurements to better achieve the Department’s
objectives of building a more lethal force with greater performance and affordability,” said
James F. Geurts, Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Research Development and Acquisition.
“This opportunity for a two-ship contract is dependent on significant savings that the
shipbuilding industry and government must demonstrate. The Navy is requesting a
proposal from HII-NNS in order to evaluate whether we can achieve significant savings.”
The two-ship buy is a contracting strategy the Navy has effectively used in the 1980s to
procure Nimitz-class aircraft carriers and achieved significant acquisition cost savings
compared to contracting for the ships individually. While the CVN 80/81 two-ship buy
negotiations transpire, the Navy is pursuing contracting actions necessary to continue CVN
80 fabrication in fiscal year (FY) 2018 and preserve the current schedule. The Navy plans
to award the CVN 80 construction contract in early FY 2019 as a two-ship buy pending
Congressional approval and achieving significant savings.64
Section 121(a)(2) of the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019
(H.R. 5515/P.L. 115-232 of August 13, 2018) permitted the Navy, after DOD made certain
certifications to Congress, to add CVN-81 to the existing contract for building CVN-80. DOD
provided the required certification on December 31, 2018. On January 31, 2019, the Navy

63 See the section entitled “Potential Two-Ship Block Buy on CVN-79 and CVN-80” in the April 4, 2012, version of
CRS Report RS20643, Navy Ford (CVN-78) Class Aircraft Carrier Program: Background and Issues for Congress, by
Ronald O'Rourke. In more recent years, this section was modified to discuss the option in connection with CVN-80 and
CVN-81.
64 Naval Sea Systems Command Public Affairs, “Navy Seeks Savings, Releases Two-Carrier RFP,” Navy News, March
20, 2018. See also Megan Eckstein, “UPDATED: Navy, Newport News Taking Steps Towards Two-Carrier Buy,”
USNI News, March 19, 2018.
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announced that it had awarded a two-ship fixed-price incentive (firm target) (FPIF) contract for
CVN-80 and CVN-81 to HII/NNS.65
The two-ship contract for CVN-80 and CVN-81 can be viewed as a block buy contract because
the two ships are being procured in different fiscal years (CVN-80 was procured in FY2018 and
CVN-81 is shown in the Navy’s FY2020 budget submission as a ship procured in FY2020).66 The
Navy’s previous two-ship aircraft carrier procurements occurred in FY1983 (for CVN-72 and
CVN-73) and FY1988 (for CVN-74 and CVN-75). In each of those two earlier cases, however,
the two ships were fully funded within a single fiscal year, making each of these cases a simple
two-ship purchase (akin, for example, to procuring two Virginia-class attack submarines or two
DDG-51 class destroyers in a given fiscal year) rather than a two-ship block buy (i.e., a contract
spanning the procurement of end items procured across more than one fiscal year).
Compared to DOD’s estimate that the two-ship block buy contract for CVN-80 and CVN-81
would produce savings of $3.9 billion (as measured from estimated costs for the two ships in the
December 2017 Navy business case analysis), DOD states that “the Department of Defense’s
Office of Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation (CAPE) developed an Independent Estimate
of Savings for the two-ship procurement and forecast savings of $3.1 billion ([in] Then-Year
[dollars]), or approximately 11 percent.... The primary differences between [the] CAPE and Navy
estimates of savings are in Government Furnished Equipment67 and production change orders.”68
Within the total estimated combined reduction in cost, HII/NNS reportedly expects to save up to
$1.6 billion in contractor-furnished equipment.69
A November 2018 DOD report to Congress that was submitted as an attachment to DOD’s
December 31, 2018, certification stated the following regarding the sources of cost reduction for
the two-ship contract:
The CVN 80 and CVN 81 two-ship buy expands and improves upon the affordability
initiatives identified in the Annual Report on Cost Reduction Efforts for JOHN F.
KENNEDY (CVN 79) and ENTERPRISE (CVN 80) as required by section 126(c) of the
National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 (P.L. 114-328). Production
saving initiatives for single-ship buys included use of unit families in construction, pre-
outfitting and complex assemblies which move work to a more efficient workspace
environment, reduction in the number of superlifts,70 and facility investments which
improve the shipbuilder trade effectiveness. A two-ship buy assumes four years between

65 See Office of the Navy Chief of Information, “Navy Awards Contract for Construction of Two Carriers,” Navy News
Service, January 31, 2019; Megan Eckstein, “UPDATED: Navy Awards 2-Carrier Contract to Newport News
Shipbuilding,” USNI News, January 31, 2019; Marcus Weisgerber, “US Navy Places First 2-Carrier Order in Three
Decades,” Defense One, January 31, 2019; David B. Larter, “US Navy Signs Mammoth Contract with Huntington
Ingalls for Two Aircraft Carriers,” Defense News, January 31, 2019; Rich Abott, “Navy Awards HII $15 Billion In
Two Carrier Buy,” Defense Daily, February 1, 2019.
66 For more on block buy contracting, see CRS Report R41909, Multiyear Procurement (MYP) and Block Buy
Contracting in Defense Acquisition: Background and Issues for Congress
, by Ronald O'Rourke.
67 Government-furnished equipment (GFE) is equipment that the government purchases from supplier firms and then
provides to the shipbuilder for incorporation into the ships.
68 Department of Defense, FORD Class Aircraft Carrier Certification, CVN 80 and CVN 81 Two Ship Procurement
Authority, as Required by Section 121(b) of the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year
2019 (P.L. 115-232), November 2018, pp. 8-9.
69 Rich Abott, “Navy Awards HII $15 Billion In Two Carrier Buy,” Defense Daily, February 1, 2019. Contractor-
furnished equipment (CFE) is equipment that the contractor (in this case, HII/NNS) purchases from supplier firms for
incorporation into the ships.
70 A superlift is the use of a crane to move a very large section of the ship from the land into its final position on the
ship.
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ship deliveries which allows more schedule overlap, and therefore more shop-level and
assembly-level production efficiencies than two single-ship buys.
Procuring two ships to a single technical baseline reduces the requirement for engineering
labor hours when compared to single-ship estimates. The ability to rollover production
support engineering and planning products maximizes savings while recognizing the
minimum amount of engineering labor necessary to address obsolescence and regulatory
changes on CVN 81. The two-ship agreement with the shipbuilder achieves a 55 percent
reduction in construction support engineering hours on CVN 81 and greater than 18 percent
reduction in production support and planning hours compared to single ship procurements.
The two-ship procurement strategy allows for serial production opportunities that promote
tangible learning and reduced shop and machine set-up times. It allows for efficient use of
production facilities, re-use of production jigs and fixtures, and level loading of key trades.
The continuity of work allows for reductions in supervision, services and support costs.
The result of these efficiencies is a production man-hours step down that is equivalent to
an 82 percent learning curve since CVN 79.
Key to achieving these production efficiencies is Integrated Digital Shipbuilding (iDS).
The Navy’s Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation (RDT&E) and the shipbuilder’s
investment in iDS, totaling $631 million, will reduce the amount of production effort
required to build FORD Class carriers. The two-ship buy will accelerate the benefits of this
approach. The ability to immediately use the capability on CVN 81 would lead to a further
reduction in touch labor and services in affected value streams. The two-ship agreement
with the shipbuilder represents a production man-hours reduction of over seven percent
based on iDS efficiencies. Contractual authority for two ships allows the shipbuilder to
maximize economic order quantity material procurement. This allows more efficient
ordering and scheduling of material deliveries and will promote efficiencies through earlier
ordering, single negotiations, vendor quotes, and cross program purchase orders. These
efficiencies are expected to reduce material costs by about six percent more when
compared to single-ship estimates. Improved material management and flexibility will
prevent costly production delays. Furthermore, this provides stability within the nuclear
industrial base, de-risking the COLUMBIA and VIRGINIA Class programs. The two-ship
buy would provide economic stability to approximately 130,000 workers across 46 States
within the industrial base.
Change order requirements are likewise reduced as Government Furnished Equipment
(GFE) providers will employ planning and procurement strategies based on the common
technical baseline that minimize configuration changes that must be incorporated on the
follow ship. Change order budget allocations have been reduced over 25 percent based on
two-ship strategies.
In addition to the discrete savings achieved with the shipbuilder, the two-ship procurement
authority provides our partner GFE providers a similar opportunity to negotiate economic
order quantity savings and achieve cross program savings when compared to single-ship
estimates.71
An April 16, 2018, press report stated the following:
If the Navy decides to buy aircraft carriers CVN-80 and 81 together, Newport News
Shipbuilding will be able to maintain a steady workload that supports between 23,000 and
25,000 workers at the Virginia yard for the next decade or so, the shipyard president told
reporters last week.

71 Department of Defense, FORD Class Aircraft Carrier Certification, CVN 80 and CVN 81 Two Ship Procurement
Authority, as Required by Section 121(b) of the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year
2019 (P.L. 115-232), November 2018, pp. 6-7.
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Part of the appeal of buying the two carriers together is that the Navy would also buy them
a bit closer together: the ships would be centered about three-and-a-half or four years apart,
instead of the five-year centers for recent carrier acquisition, Newport News Shipbuilding
President Jennifer Boykin told reporters.
Boykin said the closer ship construction centers would allow her to avoid a “labor valley”
where the workforce levels would dip down after one ship and then have to come back up,
which is disruptive for employees and costly for the company.
If this two-carrier buy goes through, the company would avoid the labor valley altogether
and ensure stability in its workforce, Boykin said in a company media briefing at the Navy
League’s Sea Air Space 2018 symposium. That workforce stability contributes to an
expected $1.6 billion in savings on the two-carrier buy from Newport News Shipbuilding’s
portion of the work alone, not including government-furnished equipment....
Boykin said four main things contribute to the expected $1.6 billion in savings from the
two-carrier buy. First, “if you don’t have the workforce valley, there’s a labor efficiency
that represents savings.”
Second, “if you buy two at once, my engineering team doesn’t have to produce two
technical baselines, two sets of technical products; they only have to produce one, and the
applicability is to both, so there’s savings there. When we come through the planning, the
build plan of how we plan to build the ship, the planning organization only has to put out
one plan and the applicability is to both, so there’s savings there.”
The third savings is a value of money over time issue, she said, and fourth is economic
order quantity savings throughout the entire supply chain.72
Discussions of the option of using a block buy contract for procuring carriers have focused on
using it to procure two carriers in part because carriers have been procured on five-year centers,
meaning that two carriers could be included in a block-buy contract spanning six years—the same
number of years originally planned for the two block buy contracts that were used to procure
mnay of the Navy’s Littoral Combat Ships.73
It can be noted, however, that there is no statutory limit on the number of years that a block buy
contract can cover, and that the LCS block buy contracts were subsequently amended to cover
LCSs procured in a seventh year. This, and the possibility of procuring carriers on 3- or 3.5-year
centers, raises the possibility of using a block buy contract to procure three aircraft carriers: For
example, if procurement of aircraft carriers were shifted to 3- or 3.5-year centers, a block buy
contract for procuring CVN-80, CVN-81, and CVN-82 could span seven years (with the first ship
procured in FY2018, and the third ship procured in FY2024) or eight years (with the first ship
procured in FY2018 and the third ship procured in FY2025).
The percentage cost reduction possible under a three-ship block buy contract could be greater
than that possible under a two-ship block buy contract, but the offsetting issue of reducing
congressional flexibility for changing aircraft carrier procurement plans in coming years in
response to changing strategic or budgetary circumstances could also be greater.


72 Megan Eckstein, “Newport News Would Save $1.6 Billion, Maintain Stable Workforce of 25,000 Under 2 Proposed
Carrier Buy,” USNI News, April 16, 2018. See also Rich Abott, “HII Sees Two Carrier Buy Saving $1.6 Billion Before
GFE,” Defense Daily, April 11, 2018: 10-11.
73 For more on the LCS block buy contracts, see CRS Report RL33741, Navy Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) Program:
Background and Issues for Congress
, by Ronald O'Rourke.
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Appendix B. Shock Trial
An earlier oversight issue for Congress for the CVN-78 program was whether to conduct the
shock trial for the CVN-78 class in the near term, on the lead ship in the class, or years later, on
the second ship in the class. This appendix presents background information on that issue.
A shock trial, known formally as a full ship shock trial (FSST) and sometimes called a shock test,
is a test of the combat survivability of the design of a new class of ships. A shock trial involves
setting off one or more controlled underwater charges near the ship being tested, and then
measuring the ship’s response to the underwater shock caused by the explosions. The test is
intended to verify the ability of the ship’s structure and internal systems to withstand shocks
caused by enemy weapons, and to reveal any changes that need to be made to the design of the
ship’s structure or its internal systems to meet the ship’s intended survivability standard. Shock
trials are nominally to be performed on the lead ship in a new class of ships, but there have also
been cases where the shock trial for a new class was done on one of the subsequent ships in the
class.
The question of whether to conduct the shock trial for the CVN-78 class in the near term, on the
lead ship in the class, or years later, on the second ship in the class, has been a matter of
disagreement at times between the Navy and the office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD). The
Navy has wanted to perform the shock trial on the second ship in the class, because performing it
on the lead ship in the class, the Navy has argued, will cause a significant delay in the first
deployment of the lead ship, effectively delaying the return of the carrier force to an 11-ship force
level and increasing the operational strain on the other 10 carriers. The Navy has argued that the
risks of delaying the shock trial on the CVN-78 to the second ship in the class are acceptable,
because the CVN-78 class hull design is based on the Nimitz (CVN-68) class aircraft carrier hull
design, whose survivability against shocks is understood, because systems incorporated into the
CVN-78 design have been shock tested at the individual component level, and because computer
modeling can simulate how the CVN-78 design as a whole will respond to shocks.
OSD has argued that the risks of delaying the CVN-78 class shock trial to the second ship in the
class are not acceptable, because the CVN-78 design is the first new U.S. aircraft carrier design in
four decades; because the CVN-78 design has many internal design differences compared to the
CVN-68 design, including new systems not present in the CVN-68 class design; and because
computer modeling can only do so much to confirm how a complex new platform, such as an
aircraft carrier and all its internal systems, will respond to shocks. The risk of delaying the shock
trial, OSD has argued, outweighs the desire to avoid a delay in the first deployment of the lead
ship in the class. OSD in 2015 directed the Navy to plan for conducting a shock trial on the lead
ship. The Navy complied with this direction but has also sought to revisit the issue with OSD.
The issue of the shock trial for the CVN-78 class has been a matter of legislative activity—see,
for example, Section 121(b) of the FY2018 National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 2810/P.L.
115-91 of December 12, 2017).
An April 5, 2018, press report states the following:
The Pentagon’s No. 2 civilian has said the Navy should perform shock-testing soon to
determine how well its new $12.9 billion aircraft carrier—the costliest warship ever—
could withstand an attack, affirming the service’s recent decision to back down from a plan
for delay.
“We agree with your view that a test in normal sequence is more prudent and pragmatic,”
Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said in a newly released March 26 letter to
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain. The Arizona Republican and
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Senator Jack Reed, the panel’s top Democrat, pressed for the shock-testing to go ahead as
originally planned.
James Guerts, the Navy’s chiefs weapons buyer, told reporters last month that the Navy
was acquiescing to the testing after initially asking Defense Secretary James Mattis to delay
it for at least six years. In its push to maintain an 11-carrier fleet, the Navy wanted to wait
and perform the test on a second carrier in the class rather than on the USS Gerald Ford.74


Author Information

Ronald O'Rourke

Specialist in Naval Affairs



Disclaimer
This document was prepared by the Congressional Research Service (CRS). CRS serves as nonpartisan
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under the direction of Congress. Information in a CRS Report should not be relied upon for purposes other
than public understanding of information that has been provided by CRS to Members of Congress in
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copy or otherwise use copyrighted material.


74 Anthony Capaccio, “Pentagon Endorses Shock-Testing Carrier After Navy Backs Down,” Bloomberg, April 5, 2018.
See also Craig Hooper, “The Navy Obfuscates On Shock Testing The $13 Billion USS Ford,” Forbes, October 23,
2019; Jason Sherman and Lee Hudson, “Navy to Conduct Full Ship Shock Trials of CVN-78 in ’19 or ’20,” Inside the
Navy
, March 26, 2018; Anthony Capaccio, “Navy Presses Mattis to Delay ‘Shock Testing’ Costliest Carrier,”
Bloomberg, February 7, 2018; Jason Sherman, “Lawmakers Rraise Ford-Class Carrier Cost Cap, Grant Navy Wiggle
Room to Avoid Shock Testing,” Inside the Navy, November 13, 2017.
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