A Qualitative Study of Affordability: Virginia and San Antonio Class Programs

Report Number: NPS-AM-14-024

Series: Acquisition Management

Category: Affordability

Report Series: Sponsored Report

Authors: Craig Knox, Daniel Reid, Timothy Winters

Title: A Qualitative Study of Affordability: Virginia and San Antonio Class Programs

Published: 2014-06-01

Sponsored By: Acquisition Research Program

Status: Published--Unlimited Distribution

Research Type: Graduate Student

Full Text URL: http://acquisitionresearch.net/files/FY2014/NPS-AM-14-024.pdf

Keywords: submarine acquisition, ship acquisition, submarine sustainment, ship sustainment, affordability, cost reduction, decisions, enablers


During the mid-1990s, the U.S. Navy initiated a wide-ranging series of Department of Defense (DOD) acquisition reforms. Amid this environment of DOD acquisition reform, the U.S. Navy started the Virginia-class submarine program and San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship program. Both of these programs sought to reduce ownership costs of these new vessels. This study compares the Virginia-class submarine and San Antonio-class ship across platforms and across time in order to find those factors that appear to affect cost. This study isolates those key metrics and relationships that demonstrate an apparently significant impact on affordability. The purpose of this study is to find the programmatic decisions, environmental circumstances, or managerial tools that benefit or jeopardize affordability in a consistent manner, and to recommend further study in those areas most likely to promote the development of better practices for affordability throughout a programs life cycle. The results of this study indicated that the interpretation of affordability changes across the life-cycle phases of an acquisition program; however, the factors that affected cost between the Virginia-class submarine and the San Antonio-class ship were comparable across time. The overall findings of affordability across time and between these two acquisition programs were mixed. During the pre-acquisition stage, key elements, which accept a high degree of cost-growth risk, do not appear to be sufficiently responsive to cost-growth mitigation initiatives. The findings suggest that, in the acquisition stage, it is possible to reverse cost growth by setting a non-negotiable cost target and establishing all other factors as flexible. For the sustainment stage, analysis of the cost effectiveness of an acquisition system