McCain Calls for Firings After Aircraft Carrier Delay

“People have to be, sooner or later, held accountable"

Arizona Sen. John McCain said the aircraft carrier delay demonstrated the need for changes to the Pentagon's weapons-buying process. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain said Tuesday he wants someone fired over the latest delay to the USS Gerald R. Ford aircraft carrier.  

The Navy has acknowledged that it will not receive its next aircraft carrier, dubbed the CVN-78, until November, two months after the service had planned. The delay is the latest in a series of technical glitches, cost overruns and other problems with the program, which McCain has had in his sights for years.  

“People have to be, sooner or later, held accountable and that means losing their jobs,” the Arizona Republican told reporters. When asked whether that would mean Navy or contract officials, McCain said only, “People who are responsible.”   

Newport News Shipbuilding, a subsidiary of Huntington Ingalls Industries, builds the carrier.   

In a written statement, McCain said he believes the delay demonstrates that key systems on the nearly $13 billion ship — including the advanced arresting gear that guides landings, the advanced weapons elevators and the dual-band radar — are still not ready for deployment.  

“Even if everything goes according to the Navy’s plan, CVN-78 will be delivered with multiple systems unproven,” McCain said.  

For its part, the Navy stresses that the ship, which is the first of its class, is 98 percent complete, and testing is 89 percent complete. During the remaining testing, the Navy is still resolving issues, which a service spokesman acknowledged could push the delivery date further out.  

Still, the service is touting the progress made on the ship, including the dual-band radar and the advanced arresting gear, the safety and reliability of which the Pentagon inspector general recently concluded remains unproven.  

“Ten years after the program entered the engineering and manufacturing development phase, the Navy has not been able to prove the capability or safety of the system to a level that would permit actual testing of the system on an aircraft carrier because of hardware failures and software challenges,” according to the July 5 inspector general report.  

Nonetheless, the Navy expects the AAG to be ready to be placed on board the ship in January, in time to support the first flights off the ships.    

McCain said the latest delay to the carrier only underscores the importance of the Senate-passed defense authorization bill (S 2943), which contains an extensive package of changes to the Pentagon’s weapons-buying process. The bill also contains provisions directing a review of the advanced arresting gear and a prohibition on future AAG procurement funding.  

“The Ford-class program is a case study in why our acquisition system must be reformed — unrealistic business cases, poor cost estimates, new systems rushed to production, concurrent design and construction and problems testing systems to demonstrate promised capability,” McCain said.

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