- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer on Wednesday defended the Navy’s handling of the U.S.S. Gerald Ford aircraft carrier program in the face of criticism from a Democratic lawmaker.

Speaking at the Brookings Institution, Mr. Spencer rejected comments from Rep. Elaine Luria, a Democrat and former U.S. Navy commander whose district includes Norfolk, who had called the mechanically-troubled supercarrier a multibillion-dollar “berthing barge” at a recent Capitol Hill hearing.

“None of her comments were, ‘How can I help?’ I consider that disparaging,” Mr. Spencer said.

Navy officials are taking more of an oversight role regarding the construction of the Ford supercarrier, in particular the vessel’s problem-plagued ammunition elevators, Mr. Spencer said.

He said Congress is too willing to lay responsibility for problems exclusively at the feet of the Navy brass.

“I have an extra seat there when I testify and I have not seen [Gerald Ford shipbuilder Huntington Ingalls Newport News] up on the Hill,” Mr. Spencer said. “Let’s have open, transparent conversations.”

Inconsistent funding and spending limits from Congress, an industry-wide decision several years ago to scale back shipbuilding and increased operational tempo also played a role, he said.

“We’re sailing the bottoms off the ships and the wings off the planes and we’re paying for it,” Mr. Spencer said.

The U.S.S. Gerald Ford was supposed to have been operational by now. But with the mechanical problems, that date has been pushed back.

President Trump has been critical of some aspects of the contract, but Mr. Spencer said the president understands how complex an issue it is.

“I serve every day at the pleasure of the president. If he’s disappointed in me, he can let me go,” he said.

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