Report to Congress on the Gerald R. Ford Carrier Program

The following is the August 26, 2022, Congressional Research Service report, Navy Ford (CVN-78) Class Aircraft Carrier Program: Background and Issues for Congress

From the report

Aircraft carriers CVN-78, CVN-79, CVN-80 and CVN-81 are the first four ships of the new navy Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) class of nuclear-powered aircraft carrier (CVN). The Navy’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2023 requests $2,995.2 million (i.e. approximately $3.0 billion) in procurement funding for CVN-78-class vessels, including $461.7 million for CVN-79, $1,481.5 million for CVN-80, and $1,052.0 million for CVN-81.

CVN-78 (Gerald R. Ford) was purchased in fiscal year 2008. The cost of provisioning the vessel was $13,316.5 million (or approximately $13.3 billion) in year dollars at the time. The ship was commissioned on July 22, 2017 and reached initial operating capability in December 2021. The ship’s first deployment was delayed by the need to complete work on the ship’s weapons elevators and correct d other technical problems on board the vessel. Navy officials say the ship’s first deployment will be in fall 2022, more than five years after it was commissioned.

CVN-79 (John F Kennedy) was purchased in fiscal year 2013. The Navy’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2023 estimates the cost of supplying the ship at $12,700.0 million (i.e. $12.7 billion) in dollars of the year. The ship is built with an improved shipyard manufacturing and assembly process that incorporates lessons learned from building the CVN-78. The CVN-79 is to be delivered to the Navy in June 2024.

CVN-80 (Company) was purchased in fiscal year 2018. The Navy’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2023 estimates the cost of procuring the ship at $12,832.9 million (or approximately $12.8 billion) in dollars of the year. The ship is to be delivered to the Navy in March 2028.

CVN-81 (Doris Miller) is treated in this report as a vessel purchased in fiscal year 2019, pursuant to Congressional action on the Navy’s fiscal year 2019 budget. (The Navy’s FY2023 budget submission, like its FY2022 and FY2021 submissions, shows CVN-81 as a vessel that was purchased in fiscal year 2020.) The Navy’s FY2023 budget submission estimates the cost of vessel supply at $12,930.0 million -dollar year. The ship is to be delivered to the Navy in February 2032.

CVN-80 and CVN-81 are being purchased under a joint purchase agreement for two vessels which was authorized by Section 121(a)(2) of the National Defense Authorization Act John S McCain for fiscal year 2019 (HR 5515/PL 115-232 dated August 13, 2018). The use of the two-vessel block purchase contract reduced the combined estimated supply cost of the two vessels.

Oversight issues for Congress for the CVN-78 program include the following:

  • the future force level of the aircraft carrier;
  • the acquisition of aircraft carriers after CVN-81;
  • the delay in the first deployment of CVN-78;
  • the transfer of parts intended for the CVN-79 to the CVN-78;
  • the cost growth of the CVN-78 program, the Navy’s efforts to stem such growth and the Navy’s efforts to manage costs to remain within program cost caps; and
  • additional CVN-78 program issues that were raised in a January 2022 report from the Department of Defense (DOD) Director of Operational Test and Evaluation (DOT&E) and a June 2021 report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO ) on DOD weapons systems.

Download document here.

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