Monday, July 11, 2011

Talks Continue on U.S. Navy Destroyer Contracts

General Dynamics and the U.S. Navy are continuing to actively negotiate construction contracts for the second and third DDG 1000 Zumwalt-class destroyers.
Going into discussions that took place last week at the company's Bath Iron Works (BIW) shipyard in Bath, Maine, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said the parties "remain significantly apart, not only on pricing of the two-ship contract, but also on important contract terms and conditions."
Navy acquisition chief Sean Stackley was at the shipyard last week for a retirement ceremony, but it is not clear if he discussed the negotiations with the company's management.
The Navy and its shipbuilders do not routinely comment on the status of contract negotiations.
Mabus made his remarks in a June 27 letter to Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, who asked for an update on the DDG 1000 program. A copy of the letter was obtained by Defense News.
Negotiations on the construction contract for DDG 1001, second of the three ships in the class, was delayed for about a year while a series of events needed to play out: the DDG 1000 program was re-certified after a Nunn-McCurdy cost breech, brought on by the Navy's decision to shrink the program from seven to three ships; Navy negotiations with Northrop Grumman and its Huntington-Ingalls spinoff - necessary because the Navy and its shipyards agreed to move all DDG 1000 ship assembly to Bath - were stalled while the company reorganized; and the six-month absence of a 2011 defense bill made the issuance of new contracts impossible.
All of those obstacles now have been cleared.
Construction of the Monsoor (DDG 1001) has been ongoing under a series of advanced procurement contracts and - before the major issues arose - a full construction contract had been expected to be agreed on in early 2010. But the shipbuilders need the full contract to move to the next levels of construction, and the yet-to-be-named DDG 1002 also is now linked to the 1001 talks.
"The current proposal from BIW is significantly above the government's independent estimate," Mabus wrote in his letter to Pingree. "The Navy is reviewing all aspects of the program to identify opportunities to reduce program cost to close the gap.
"Likewise, we have been forthright with BIW where we believe their estimates for performance need to be improved to help close this gap."
In a May 26 letter to Mabus, Pingree also expressed her concern that the recent award of DDG 113 - the latest DDG 51 Arleigh Burke-class destroyer to be ordered - would give Huntington-Ingalls an unfair startup advantage when it comes to bidding on the next ships in the class.
The Navy halted DDG 51 procurement for a period but then announced a restart of the program when it cut the number of DDG 1000s it would buy. BIW and Huntington-Ingalls share in construction of DDG 51 destroyers.
Bath is still working on the last two DDG 51s awarded under prior contracts, but Huntington-Ingalls delivered its last destroyer earlier this year, and has already laid off many employees who worked on the Aegis-equipped ships.
The Navy has announced that DDG 114 will be awarded to Huntington-Ingalls and DDG 115 to Bath. The yard offering the best deal will get DDG 116.
Pingree's concerns were that Huntington-Ingalls got an unfair advantage by having already received a new destroyer contract, while BIW would have to incur more restart costs on 115 that Huntington-Ingalls won't have to factor into its 114 bid.
Mabus wrote that the Navy does not view the restart costs as a factor in the competition. He noted that Bath has built more DDG 51s - 34 - than Huntington-Ingalls' 28, including four of the last five ships, and remains the lead yard for the program.
"For all of these reasons, the Navy believes that BIW is in sound position to compete fairly in the current DDG 51 competition," Mabus wrote to Pingree

U.S. Suspends Millions in Military Aid to Pakistan: Report

WASHINGTON - The United States is suspending or canceling hundreds of millions of dollars of aid to the Pakistani military amid deteriorating ties, The New York Times reported late July 9.
Citing unnamed senior U.S. officials, the newspaper said the move was aimed at chastening Pakistan for expelling American military trainers and to press its army to fight militants more effectively.
In the wake of the May raid on Osama bin Laden's compound, the United States recalled dozens of military trainers on Pakistan's orders, while huge tensions remain over a covert American drone war against militants on the Afghan border.
According to The Times, about $800 million in military aid and equipment, or over one-third of the more than $2 billion in annual U.S. security assistance to Pakistan, could be affected by the suspension.
This aid includes about $300 million to reimburse Pakistan for some of the costs of deploying more than 100,000 soldiers along the Afghan border as well as hundreds of millions of dollars in training assistance and military hardware, the report said.
Some of the curtailed aid is equipment that the U.S. wants to send but Pakistan now refuses to accept, like rifles, ammunition, body armor and bomb-disposal gear, the paper said.
These deliveries were withdrawn or held up after Islamabad ordered more than 100 Army Special Forces trainers to leave the country in recent weeks, The Times noted.
Some of this equipment, such as night-vision goggles and helicopter spare parts, cannot be set up, certified or used for training because Pakistan has denied visas to the U.S. personnel needed to operate it, the paper said.
And some of the suspended assistance is reimbursement for troop costs, which is being reviewed in light of questions about Pakistan's commitment to carry out counterterrorism operations, The Times said.

Mullen Asks for China Help on North Korea

BEIJING - America's top military officer on July 10 urged Beijing to use its relationship with Pyongyang to ensure regional stability, while warning North Korea against further dangerous provocations.
Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, attends the Cooperative Security and Regional Stability in Asia meeting at Renmin University in Beijing on July 10. (STR / AFP via Getty Images)
Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, stressed that Washington was in no way seeking to contain China's dramatic rise, but that the U.S. would remain active in the Asia Pacific region for a long time.
"North Korea and the leadership of North Korea is only predictable in one sense and that is - if you base it historically - they will continue to provocate," Mullen told reporters after arriving in Beijing.
"The provocations I think now are potentially more dangerous than they have been in the past."
Tensions in Northeast Asia have risen sharply since South Korea accused the North of torpedoing a warship in March 2010, killing 46 sailors.
Pyongyang angrily denied the charge but went on to shell a border island in November, killing four South Koreans including two civilians.
Six-party nuclear disarmament talks, grouping the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the United States, have been stalled since the North abandoned them in April 2009. It staged its second nuclear test a month later.
"All of us are focused on a stable outcome here of what is increasingly a difficult challenge with respect to the leadership in North Korea and what it might do," Mullen said.
"The Chinese leadership, they have a strong relationship with the leadership in Pyongyang and they exercise that routinely ... continuing to do that as they have done in the past is really important."
On a four-day trip to China, Mullen said he would discuss that and other issues in talks with his counterpart Gen. Chen Bingde and while visiting military bases as the two nations seek to bolster their security cooperation.
"The United States is deepening its commitment to this region and the alliances and partnerships that define our presence there," Mullen said in a speech at Beijing's Renmin University.
"We are, and will remain, a Pacific power, just as China is a Pacific power."
To help build trust with China, the U.S. will conduct anti-piracy drills with China in the Gulf of Aden this year, host medical aid exercises and participate in joint disaster relief exercises next year, he said.
"This region and the global challenges that we face together are just too vital and too vast for us to continue to find obstacles to a better understanding of each other," Mullen told reporters.
The trip coincided with a joint naval exercise that began July 9 with the U.S., Japanese and Australian navies in the South China Sea, where recent Chinese assertiveness over territorial claims has raised tensions.
During his trip, the first to China by a U.S. chairman of the joint chiefs since 2007, Mullen said he would also discuss the Taiwan issue, stability in the South China Sea and confidence-building measures between the two nations.
"Containing China is not the case ... we would like to see China in the long run to be a strong partner with the United States to resolve some of the issues that we have got both regionally and globally," Mullen said.
As tensions in the South China Sea mount, China-U.S. military exchanges have also picked up, with the former US Defense Secretary Robert Gates meeting Chinese Defense Minister Liang Guanglie in Singapore in June.
Gates also visited Beijing in January.
Gates warned last month that clashes could erupt in the South China Sea unless nations adopt a mechanism to settle their territorial disputes peacefully.
Mullen dismissed suggestions that wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya had left the U.S. military unable to play a strong role in the Pacific, describing the idea of America in decline as "just dead wrong."

Iraq 'To Decide on Continued U.S. Military Presence'

BAGHDAD - Iraq's political parties will decide within two weeks what their position is on the possibility of U.S. troops remaining in the country beyond the end of 2011, President Jalal Talabani said July 9.
"All parties have discussed the matter, and we have all agreed that each one will... give its final response within two weeks," Talabani said after a meeting with political blocs at the presidential palace.
Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurds said they do not want to see American troops depart, while radical anti-American cleric Moqtada Sadr has threatened to reactivate his Mahdi Army militia if they stay.
The other parties attending the meeting did not announce any stance on the issue.
About 46,000 U.S. troops remain in Iraq, but the entire force is due to leave by Dec. 31 under a security agreement with Baghdad.
But top U.S. officials have said that they would consider keeping some troops there after the deadline if requested by Iraqi authorities.
On July 7, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, confirmed that the United States and Iraq are negotiating a possible new security deal that would keep U.S. forces in the country beyond December 31.
"The negotiations are ongoing and it's hard," Mullen told reporters.
He said the discussions were addressing both the size of a possible U.S. military mission as well as the capabilities that Iraqi forces lacked.
"There are very clear capability gaps the Iraqis are going to have," said Mullen, citing air power, air defense and intelligence analysis.
"And both the Iraqi security forces and our forces recognize those gaps are there," he said.
How those gaps would be addressed is "at the heart of the discussions and negotiations which are ongoing as we speak," the admiral added.