Opening Statement of Ranking Member Roscoe Bartlett

Mar 19, 2007
Press Release

Contact: Josh Holly (HASC), 202-226-3988                         Lisa Wright (Bartlett), 202-225-2721  

Washington, D.C. – House Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower and Expeditionary Forces Ranking Republican Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD) released the following opening statement for the subcommittee’s hearing on shipbuilding modernization programs and cost reduction efforts:

“Thank you, Mr. Chairman.  Good afternoon, ladies and gentleman.  It’s a pleasure to be here with you today to learn more about the Navy and industry’s efforts to control costs for naval vessel construction. 

“There are several key elements necessary to achieve cost reductions, including commonality of designs at the component and system level, stability in the shipbuilding program, sufficient volume to optimize workloads, and shipyard facility modernization.  The Chairman and I have traveled around the world to visit Europe and Asia’s most competitive and efficient yards.  We have seen the art of the possible and are eager to understand what role Congress might play to facilitate the transfer of best practices from these yards to U.S. yards.  I was struck not only by what I saw on these production lines, which was the sight of relatively few hand welders, but also by what I heard – which was the relative quiet of advanced cutting processes such as laser and water jets.  The contrast to our naval shipyards was stark.  I do not believe we are taking full advantage of these technologies and practices in the construction of U.S. warships.

“How critical is the link between shipyard efficiencies and cost?  I think we need to look no further than our recent experience with the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS).  While the issues with LCS are not directly tied to shipyard modernization, we have clearly seen that once the modules for LCS 1 began to be constructed out of sequence and the ship was in the water without the maximum amount of outfitting having been completed – the resultant labor inefficiencies significantly increased the price of the ship.

“With that said, I must also acknowledge that commercial yards have a very different task.  Their key competency is construction of cargo and passenger ships, which are often simpler in design and require less oversight and integration of hull, mechanical, and electrical systems.  These yards also benefit from economies of scale derived from large commercial orders.  Instead, our yards must strive to create value for the Navy and their stockholders through a balance of strategies, such as industrial efficiency, network services, and knowledge application.  As we have seen in foreign yards, industrial efficiency creates value by producing standardized offerings at low cost.  But the Navy is never likely to need standardized, commoditized ships. Consequently, we must also explore means to position our shipyards to connect people and services and to apply customized expertise to ship construction.  If we were successful, we might even find that other nations and other customers would be interested in coming to United States’ yards for their most challenging, high performance ship needs.

“I am hopeful that we’ll learn more about these various possibilities in today’s hearing.  I’d like to conclude by thanking our witnesses for their service to our nation and for being here with us today.  I truly look forward to your testimony.”