Thursday, November 17, 2005

ASDS program afloat or sinking?

Are we in for a political food fight over the Advanced SEAL Delivery System (ASDS) program?

The answer may be yes, U.S Rep. Rob Simmons (R) of CT. say the ASDS program, under its current prime contractor Northrop Grumman, is 600 percent over budget and four years behind schedule. Simmons, who's district includes Groton CT home of the Electric Boat Company, has said the entire $1.2 billion program should be re-bid (Article in The Day registration required).

According to Simmons, Electric Boat's use of new production technologies in the Seawolf and Virginia class programs demonstrates the company's ability to develop advanced submarine systems and therefore should be considered as a possible contractor in any re-bid. As a member of the House Armed Services Committee Rep. Simmons has influence over such recommendations to the Navy and is pushing such a proposal publicly.

Advanced Seal Delivery System (Source: US Navy)

But not so fast, Democratic Sen. Barbara Mikulski of Maryland, says she has already won the fight to fully fund the program at $147.5 million for fiscal 2006. Ms. Mikulski serves on the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense. Reuters is also reporting that the prime contractor Northrop Grumman Corp. is upbeat on the Navy's ASDS mini-sub program.

Sen. Mikulski's district includes the Northrop Grumman's Bay Bridge plant in Annapolis where the ASDS is being developed. The plant could stand to get 150 new jobs if the $148 million contract is approved within the current spending package.

Ms. Mikulski has been appointed to a conference committee where the House and Senate will hash out differences in the bill before it goes to President Bush's desk.

Northrop Grumman hasn't had a good track record recently as I've noted here with submarines and here with surface ships.

It will be interesting to see if Rep. Simmons (R CT) can make a convincing enough argument to take the contract away from a defense contractor and a Senator with more political clout than budget sense.

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