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US shipyards can’t build destroyers fast enough; can’t even build 2 a year, official says

Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS The Sullivans. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Damian Berg/Released)
May 02, 2023

U.S. shipyards cannot build destroyers fast enough to meet Congress’ push for three Arleigh Burke-class Flight III warships each year, according to a top Pentagon official.  

Defense Department comptroller Mike McCord told United States Naval Institute News that shipyards can’t even produce two warships a year, making Congress’ request for three unrealistic.

“I’m not hating on DDGs – my only point was that last year Congress added a third and the reason we didn’t budget for three is, again, we don’t see the yards being able to produce three a year. We don’t see them being able to produce two a year,” McCord said. “And that’s just data.”

“It’s not what we wish to be true. But everybody’s struggling with skilled labor. Everybody’s struggling with supply chain,” he continued. “So it’s not getting better very fast from the data that I’ve seen – whether with submarines or DDGs. So two a year seems to be a reasonable place.”

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Currently, the industry is able to build 1.5 destroyers annually.

“If you keep sort of placing orders for things faster than they can be delivered, it’s good for the books, the balance sheets of the companies. But are you really, as the buyer, are you in the best place you’d like to be with any leverage or are you actually short of leverage when, you produce on time or you don’t produce on time. It doesn’t matter to me – I’m going to keep writing you checks,” McCord said.

“It’s just sort of piling up in the orders book and we’re still going to have the same problems of the yards producing faster until we get through the supply chain and the workforce issues,” he added. “It is not to say that we would not be interest[ed] in a more robust production world where in having three DDGs or moving to three submarines, but it doesn’t seem to be … realistic.”

According to the budget outlook, the Navy plans to buy two ships each year through FY2028.

“We would love to live in a world where the yards could make three a year, or three submarines a year, but we don’t live in that world,” McCord said.