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Block-buy for new aircraft carriers will save taxpayers billions of dollars

Industry executives, lawmakers, and an academic scholar say a dual purchase strategy is more cost-efficient.

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — Purchasing aircraft carriers two-at-a-time saves taxpayers' money.

The Navy in 2019 said that the "block-buy" for the future carriers Enterprise (CVN-80) and Doris Miller (CVN-81) will lead to savings of about $4 billion over the life of the program. 

When the deal was reached, Newport News Shipbuilding President Jennifer Boykin praised the decision, saying: "We’re very happy with the Navy’s willingness to partner with us."

And if down the road the Navy decides to buy another pair of Gerald R. Ford Class carriers --- CVN-82 and CVN-83---shipyard executives say multi-year procurements are more cost-effective because shipbuilders can apply what they've learned on the prior ship to the next one. 

They already are, according to Newport News Shipbuilding Vice President Brian Fields, speaking prior to last week's keel-laying ceremony for the future USS Enterprise (CVN 80.)

"We're doing it in more efficient, more safe conditions," he said. "It saves money. It saves time."

Among supporters of the dual-buy strategy is Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Va., 1st District) who, when the Enterprise & Doris Miller deal was struck, said: "This is a win-win for the nation."

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Virginia) is also a fan of the idea. He said: “I’m thrilled the Navy has decided to pursue a block buy for aircraft carriers, something I’ve been advocating to save billions in taxpayer dollars and offer more certainty to the Hampton Roads defense community. This smart move will save taxpayer dollars and help ensure the shipyards can maintain a skilled workforce to get the job done."

Old Dominion University Economics Professor Bob McNab agrees.

"A multi-carrier buy not only brings certainty to the Navy, it brings certainty to Huntington Ingalls, it brings certainty to the suppliers, and of course, it brings certainty to Hampton Roads, as we're the place that the Navy builds carriers," he said.

USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78)  was commissioned in 2017 and is scheduled to make its initial deployment later this year.

The second ship of the class, the Kennedy, is set to be commissioned into the fleet in 2024.

Construction on the Enterprise will be completed in 2028, and the Doris Miller will be finished in 2032.

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