Report: Pentagon should scrap $40B Ford-class aircraft carrier program

People take photographs in front of the Navy's newest nuclear powered aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford for the christening of the ship at the Newport News Shipbuilding in Newport News, Virginia, Nov. 9, 2013. Steve Helber / AP
People take photographs in front of the Navy's newest nuclear powered aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford for the christening of the ship at the Newport News Shipbuilding in Newport News, Virginia, Nov. 9, 2013. Steve Helber / AP

WASHINGTON (CNN/WAVY) — With an aging air fleet and a shrinking Navy working overtime around the globe, US military officials say the world’s most powerful fighting force is at an “inflection point” and needs a serious makeover if it wants to maintain that status now and into the future.

But to balance the immediate need for more planes and ships while also investing in future technology to keep the US ahead of rising rivals like China and Russia, the Pentagon needs to make some “hard decisions” and cut some of its most expensive weapons programs, according to a new report from the Center for a New American Security.

U.S. Navy’s new $13B aircraft carrier can’t fight

The first move of a new presidential administration will not be to “cancel any of these programs but we’ve shown it is possible to make significant changes in short time,” said Jerry Hendrix, one of the report’s authors and a senior fellow at the Washington-based think tank.

“We want to stir the debate.” he added.

The proposal was first reported by The Washington Post.

Most notably, the report calls for canceling the $40 billion Ford-class aircraft carrier program, halting construction of the littoral combat ship, and purchasing fewer F-35 Joint Strike Fighters.

Pentagon orders review of $13B USS Gerald Ford

Those funds would be reallocated for the stealthy B-21 bomber, adding 16 additional submarines, and investing in emerging technologies like high-energy lasers, the CNAS report recommends.

Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.) issued a statement Monday on the report:

Our national security depends on a modern and technologically advanced military. While there have been issues related to the construction of the USS Gerald R. Ford, the Navy and its primary shipbuilder for the Ford-class have already taken steps to reduce costs and address these issues for the next two aircraft carriers. Cancelling the Ford-class program would have severe consequences for national security and harm efforts to replenish and replace the fleet in the coming decades.

With regard to the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, I have been very concerned with the cost and production issues with this new aircraft. While efforts have been made to shift the burden of cost overruns from the government to the contractor, the issues that have plagued the F-35 program are a case study for the need to improve and reform the Defense Department’s acquisition system. I do not believe, however, it would be wise to outright cancel the program, but Congress must make sure that our limited national security resources are being used effectively, efficiently and responsibly.

As Congress and the President consider our national security priorities, we can fully afford to modernize and improve our military but only if we are honest with the American people about the budget choices we need to make in order to do so.”

The Department of Defense outlined the groundwork of a spending plan in its $583 billion 2017 budget proposal submitted in February, but CNAS experts Hendrix, Paul Scharre and Elbridge Colby say their plan would help the Pentagon rebalance its investment priorities for the next decade.

CNAS is an independent and bipartisan organization that provides research and analysis to “shape and elevate” the national security and foreign policy debate.