Using a special congressional provision granted last September, the U.S. Navy awarded an estimated $40 million contract modification Feb. 27 to Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII) for additional advance planning efforts to prepare for the Refueling Complex Overhaul (RCOH) of the CVN-72 USS Abraham Lincoln carrier and its reactor plants.

Funds being used for this extension are from an Above Threshold Reprogramming (ATR) approved by Congress, a Navy official says.

The contract modification work, the Navy says, “will mitigate schedule impacts and help preserve the skilled workforce” and “provide for additional advanced planning, ship checks, design, documentation, engineering, procurement, fabrication and preliminary shipyard or support facility work to prepare for and make ready for the refueling, overhaul, modernization and routine work on CVN 72 and its reactor plants.”

The contract extension, the Navy official says, is “a stopgap measure to fund targeted work on Lincoln at the Naval Station Norfolk pier. This extension helps preserve the schedule and maintain a skilled workforce until the RCOH contract can be awarded.”

A midlife refueling for Nimitz-class carriers like the Lincoln have generally run about $3 billion.

The RCOH contract will not be awarded until the required funding for the first year of execution is available, “via an appropriation or CR anomaly,” the official says.

“This plan will result in the lowest overall program cost, lessen impacts to CVN 72’s return to fleet timeline, and help mitigate downstream schedule impacts associated with the CVN-65 (USS Enterprise) inactivation and the CVN-73 (USS George Washington) RCOH,” the official says. “Failure to spend this money now will increase program costs, schedule risk and result in loss of skilled workforce.”

Carrier work and deployment has become a lightning rod for discussion about budget constraints and sequestration impacts. The Navy earlier this month said it would delay the deployment of the CVN-75 USS Harry S. Truman.