- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 5, 2002

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said yesterday that he "feels very good" about a Navy proposal that, according to defense sources, calls for building a new generation of big-deck aircraft carriers starting in 2007.
The Washington Times reported last week that the Navy has won the internal budget debate to build the futurist CVNX aircraft carrier. It is proposing to skip the first model and proceed to the CVNX-2.
The plan would fit in better with President Bush's desire to transform the military. The "2" model would come with a new nuclear power plant, smaller superstructure, advanced flight deck and high-tech systems for launching and recovering aircraft.
Mr. Rumsfeld met Friday morning in his office with Navy Secretary Gordon England and Adm. Vern Clark, chief of naval operations, to hear the plan.
"I feel very good about the proposals that the Navy has put forward," he told reporters yesterday, "and they're then going to have to go back and do some additional analytical work and punch some numbers and come back."
Mr. Rumsfeld's civilian staff, led by Stephen Cambone, a close aide, are forming the next defense budget. It is expected to provide Mr. Bush with his first opportunity to make decisions on major weapons systems in his transformation plan.
One major issue was whether the Navy would continue building large-deck carriers or switch to smaller, faster ships. The Navy has won the argument to build the CVNX, defense sources said, and now the question is whether to begin in 2007, or, as some civilian analysts have recommended, in 2009.
Both Navy and civilian officials agree that the best way to achieve transformation is to skip CVNX-1 and move to the more advanced CVNX-2.
"On the carrier," Mr. Rumsfeld said, "I suspect that when all the dust settles, what you'll find is you will find the maximum amount of new technology and transformational capabilities. What you'll find is that we will have gone right there and found the exact balance between moving things forward and not going so far that you inject risk elements that very likely couldn't be achieved and would put in jeopardy the time schedule."
A Pentagon official said yesterday that he views Mr. Rumsfeld's remarks as confirmation that CVNX-2 will be built on the Navy's proposed schedule.
It will cost the Navy $10 billion to develop and build the first CVNX. Moving directly to the CVNX-2 is expected to add $1 billion in cost. The CVNX would replace the Nimitz-class carrier built at Northrop Grumman Corp.'s Newport News, Va., shipyard.

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