Friday, October 16, 2015

Zumwalt Will Live On In Another

Our expensive Zumwalt destroyer class may end at two ships rather than three. But it will live on.

So we will only get two of the 14,000-ton ship class?

The American Zumwalt class destroyers may find its production run truncated yet again, as reports indicate that the third ship of the class, the Lyndon B. Johnson (DDG 1002), is on the budget chopping block. ...

Spreading the R&D cost of $9.6 billion over the original 32 ships would have only added $300 million to the price of each ship. By cutting the program to three units, each ship now shoulders $3.2 billion of the R&D costs.

Given that the research and development costs for DDG-1000 are already spent, the decision should be made narrowly on the cost of actually building the third ship. And since the rule of thumb is 1 ship forward for every 2 back in port, if we want the capabilities that the ship carries to be more or less constantly available, we should build the third.

Regardless, the research and development costs won't be lost. By canceling the ship class, it looks fiscally responsible but it really isn't. It's just accounting, since the next ship built using the exact same technology that by the rules has to be counted against the cost of the ship the research was done for will use Zumwalt technology that is now already paid for. Voila! A cheaper warship.

We should decide on whether we should build more ships based on the success of the ship itself and the actual incremental cost to build more hulls without worrying about the sunk research costs. Really, the R & D should be separated from the production cost to get rid of the odd incentives to truncate production of "too expensive" ships and build a "new and cheaper" vessel that uses the exact same technology.

What's the decent interval before Son of Zumwalt is proposed?