The following is the Nov. 17, 2021, Congressional Research Service report, Navy Ford (CVN-78) Class Aircraft Carrier Program: Background and Issues for Congress.
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 FY2022 budget requests $2,659.5 million (i.e., about $2.7 billion) in procurement funding for CVN-78 class ships, including $291.0 million for CVN-79, $1,068.7 million for CVN-80, and $1,299.8 million for CVN-81.
CVN-78 (Gerald R. Ford) was procured in FY2008. The Navy’s proposed FY2022 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.
CVN-79 (John F. Kennedy) was procured in FY2013. The Navy’s proposed FY2022 budget estimates the ship’s procurement cost at $11,929.7 million (i.e., about $11.9 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. CVN-79 is scheduled for delivery to the Navy in June 2024.
CVN-80 (Enterprise) was procured in FY2018. The Navy’s proposed FY2022 budget estimates the ship’s procurement cost at $12,405.5 million (i.e., about $12.4 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 FY2022 budget submission, like its FY2021 submission, shows CVN-81 as a ship that was procured in FY2020. The Navy’s FY2022 budget submission estimates the ship’s procurement cost at $12,483.6 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 future aircraft carrier force level;
- the procurement of aircraft carriers after CVN-81;
- 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;
- the transfer of parts intended for CVN-79 to CVN-78;
- the potential impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the execution of U.S. military shipbuilding programs, including the CVN-78 program;
- 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; and
- 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.