"The Navy's new destroyer, the DD(X), is becoming so expensive that it may end up destroying itself," the Times' defense tech reporter, Tim Weiner, writes today. "The Navy once wanted 24 of them. Now it thinks it can afford 5 - if that."
The price of the Navy's new ships, driven upward by old-school politics and the rusty machinery of American shipbuilding, may scuttle the Pentagon's plans for a 21st-century armada of high-technology aircraft carriers, destroyers and submarines.Shipbuilding costs "have spiraled out of control," the Navy's top admiral, Vern Clark, told Congress last week, rising so high that "we can't build the Navy that we believe that we need in the 21st century."The first two DD(X)'s are now supposed to total $6.3 billion, according to confidential budget documents, up $1.5 billion. A new aircraft carrier, the CVN-21, is estimated at $13.7 billion, up $2 billion. The new Virginia-class submarine now costs $2.5 billion each, up $400 million. All these increases have materialized in the last six months.The Navy says it can make do with fewer big ships patrolling the oceans. It wants more fast boats and aircraft to fight offshore and upriver, a speedier force to counter terror. But Congress, seeking to sustain America's shipyards, wants as many big ships as possible.Admiral Clark, who plans to retire later this year, says both strategies could be sunk by soaring costs.