WASHINGTON, July 30 (Reuters) - Admiral John Richardson, President Barack Obama’s nominee for chief of naval operations, vowed on Thursday to tackle cost overruns on new Huntington Ingalls Industries aircraft carriers and to keep a sharp eye on other key weapons programs.
Richardson, director of the Navy’s Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that if confirmed as the Navy’s top uniformed officer, he intends to continue his practice of being personally involved in acquisition policy, setting clear standards and then enforcing them.
Replying to questions submitted before his nomination hearing, Richardson said he supported a study of possible alternatives to the current carrier design. “We are not where we need to be on costs and are working hard to reduce them -- more effort is needed,” he said.
Described as a “bold thinker” by Defense Secretary Ash Carter, Richardson has spent years focused on key acquisition programs such as the Navy’s effort to develop a new Ohio-class submarine that will carry ballistic missiles.
He also signaled potential changes in the Navy’s requirements for a new carrier-based drone and said he would take a hard look at the Navy’s current requirement for 340 F-35 C-model fighter jets built by Lockheed Martin Corp.
“If confirmed, I will work with the chairman and other services to revalidate the appropriate number of aircraft the Navy requires to meet the mission,” he said.
Richardson’s comments opened the door to a fresh push by Boeing Co to market a more advanced version of the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet now in use on carriers.
Citing rapid advances by Russia and China in quieter and more capable submarines, Richardson said it was critical to avoid further delays in the Ohio-class submarine replacement and to continue building other submarines and ships as well.
“It is critical that we maintain superiority under sea. The U.S. advantage is being challenged by China and Russia, and we must be alert to an advancing and adapting threat,” he said.
Without increased funding beginning in fiscal 2021 for the new submarine, its huge cost would crowd out funding for two to three new ships a year, Richardson said.
He cited four principles as critical to successful acquisition programs: a clear structure that maps out authority, responsibility and accountability; unambiguous program requirements; a stable and mature design; and close oversight.
Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Dan Grebler