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Fixed Price for DDG-1000

by: Matthew Potter
April 20, 2009

Category: Business Line, Companies, Congress, Contract Awards, Department of Defense, Events, General Dynamics, Maine, Northrop Grumman Corp., production program, Restructuring, Services, States, U.S. Navy | RSS 2.0

As part of the reforms announced by Secretary Gates’ a few weeks ago one was to end the DDG-1000 program at three ships and restart the DDG-51 production line. General Dynamics will build the last two as the first is under construction by Northrop Grumman. Northrop will get the DDG-51 work to make up for the cancellation. The New York Times is reporting that GD agreed to a fixed price contract for hulls numbers two and three.

Normally fixed price contracts are used for when full rate production gets underway. The first few batches of a product are made as part of the cost plus development contract. This spreads the risk to the Government. Obama has said he wants more fixed price contracts to save money on defense programs that tend to go over schedule and cost. Of course a lot of that is due to issues with requirements or testing or just making the thing that add time and money.

DoD uses two ways to look at unit cost when it comes to managing a program. One is the total of all procurement and R&D funding spread over the quantity of the items being bought. Another just takes the total procurement cost and divides that by the quantity. As you build more of an item the R&D is spread over more units slowly lowering that cost. If things begin to require more procurement then that cost goes up. Slowing down a program and buying the same quantity over a longer time effectively increases total program costs greatly. There is always some fixed cost applied each year if you build one, ten or a hundred of an item. The more years it takes the more those fixed costs add up.

With this program it may be OK to use a FFP contract as the costs are more known and fixed. If there are issues GD will be taking a risk as they might not get back all the money it takes them to build the ships. This is why Cost Plus contracts are used for development and ironing out production. In this case it will be an interesting experiment to see if it works out for the Government and the contractor.

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