The recent U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report questioning the U.S. Navy’s decision to truncate the DDG-1000 Zumwalt destroyer fleet and restart the DDG-51 destroyer line raises significant potential issues for Congress, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) says.

The two reports echo findings and concerns highlighted by the Aviation Week Intelligence Network's “Come About” investigation and series on the Navy's destroyer and radar-suite programs.

The Navy’s plan is to use the Aegis Combat System-equipped Burkes to anchor the nation’s ballistic missile defense (BMD) plans, although both GAO and CRS question the logic and analysis used for that decision.

As it stands now, the Navy’s fiscal 2013 budget request includes about $3.5 billion for two DDG-51 Arleigh Burke-class destroyers and advance procurement/economic order quantity funding as part of the fiscal 2013-17 multiyear procurement contract. The budget request also includes $669 million in funding for another destroyer, the DDG-1000 Zumwalt-class ship.

The Navy says it can deploy more Burkes more cheaply and quickly than Zumwalts for the BMD mission. But an AWIN analysis shows the service could save up to $14.3 billion—according to some government estimates of procurement and life-cycle costs—if the service bought DDG-1000s instead of newly designed variants of the DDG-51s, although other factors must be taken into account.

GAO recommends in its January report that the Navy perform a “thorough analyses of alternatives for its future surface combatant program.” The Feb. 3 CRS report says GAO “discusses several potential oversight issues for Congress regarding the Navy’s plans for procuring DDG-51s, particularly the Flight III version.”

CRS notes it had raised some of the issues in earlier reports and says: “The GAO report develops these issues at length and adds some additional issues.”

According to CRS, some of the issues Congress could consider include whether to mitigate the significant projected shortfall in cruisers and destroyers; whether there is an adequate analytical basis for procuring Flight III DDG-51s in lieu of the previously planned CG(X) cruisers; whether an analysis of alternatives should be performed before committing to the development and procurement of Flight III DDG-51s;, and whether they will have sufficient air and missile capability to perform projected air and missile defense missions.

Additional potential oversight issues for Congress, CRS says, include the cost, schedule and technical risk in the Flight III DDG-51 program and the potential schedule risk for the Flight IIA DDG-51s.