Congress Wastes Billions on Shipyard Pork

Conference committee approves language supporting shipyards (AP)

House and Senate negotiators working out differences in a supplemental spending package have approved language withholding from the Navy funding to pursue a strategy of letting only one shipyard build the next generation destroyer.

[…]

The provision, approved Tuesday, was sought by congressional delegations from Maine, Mississippi and other shipbuilding states to stymie the Navy’s proposed winner-take-all approach for building the Navy’s stealthy DD(X) destroyer.

The Navy contends that so few ships will be built that it doesn’t make sense to divvy the work between Maine’s Bath Iron Works and Northrop Grumman’s Ingalls shipyard in Mississippi, as has been the practice in recent years. Those two shipyards build destroyers and cruisers for the Navy. Shipyard proponents say the Navy’s proposed policy could drive the losing bidder out of business, eliminating all hope of competitive bids in the future. “Two shipyards ensure greater competition in the long run – both in the development of cutting edge technology and in ensuring the best price for the taxpayer,” Maine Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe said Tuesday in a statment.

Via “Fox Special Report,” which reported that the dual program would cost the taxpayers an additional $3 billion. On the other hand, the “long run competition” argument has some merit. Giving the program to a single shipyard would virtually ensure that the others would be forced to shut down. Of course, protecting constituent jobs, not economic theory, is what’s motivating the Maine and Mississippi delegations.

It’s interesting that the Navy is being so vocal in opposition to this. In recent decades, the Services have been very shrewd in spreading acquisitions programs across as many congressional districts as possible, thus ensuring political support for them in the long run.

FILED UNDER: Congress, Military Affairs
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Mikey says:

    That isn’t a new practice, either. The first six frigates – Constitution, United States, President, Congress, Constellation, and Chesapeake – were each built in different shipyards.

  2. herb says:

    Any management team that single sources anything is foolish and will eventually end up paying higher prices for the product. The single source idea is “Just Bad Management”.

  3. The DOD does this all the time, and it’s not to make constituents happy. There’s a very, very real and potentially devastating strategic threat of losing vital technical skills if you allow certain groups to just up and go out of business.

    In the DOD contractor world, this is known often as “keep-alive funding” – the DOD will slip a project just enough funding to keep the key people around in case they need some more work from them, so that they don’t lose access to very important skills.

    Yes, there are sound economic reasons for this, too. Yes, there are Congressmen playing pork politics. But it’s very, very bad long-term strategy to allow our shipyard facilities to just up and disappear.

    There are reasons sometimes why the government can’t be run like a business.

  4. Ted says:

    If you read the latest GAO Report on Weapon Systems there would be a realization that you can’t build DD(X) because the Technology is not Mature or is not ready. Also it would be more cost effective to just reactivate and modernize the two remaining Iowa Class Battleships. The Navy puts Battleship Reactivation at $230 Million each. Battleship O&M cost is $71M a year. That means you could operate a BB for 11 Years with a 3% Inflation Rate for 1 Billion Dollars.

    Our Troops need Naval Gun Fire Support. This is the reason to build DDX. The cost effective option is to reactivate and modernize the Battleships.