Almost as funny as this exchange.
Mahr and Capt. Brian Antonio, program manager for the Ford carrier program, were joined on the witness panel by Vice Adm. David Architzel, the Navy’s senior officer in its Pentagon acquisition office. The officers first presented a video showing EMALS and then explained a series of charts. That sort of technical detail brought a long series of questions from the panel’s ranking member, Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo., a former engineer, who sought to more fully understand the new technology developed for EMALS.
Freshman Rep. Eric Massa, D-N.Y., a retired Navy commander, prompted the most direct questioning of the hearing.
“What happens if it doesn’t work?” he asked.
“The technology now is critical to the ship,” replied Architzel, who detailed the Navy’s steps in reviewing the program but did not mention an EMALS alternative.
“I say again, what happens if it doesn’t work?” asked Massa.
“We have every expectation that it will work,” replied Architzel.
“With all due respect,” Massa asked again, “what happens if it doesn’t work?”
“With all candor, if that new system will not work … we will have to make sure it does work,” Architzel said.
After noting that no similar system is in use by any navy, Massa, a former professional staffer on the House Armed Services Committee, spoke directly to Architzel, sitting only a few feet in front of him.
“I will state for the record that I was against the Navy shifting construction to the Ford class and taking such a large leap of technology,” Massa declared. “I think it is a bridge too far with exceptionally high risk.
“I am exceptionally concerned about the inability to extract an answer to the simple question of what happens if it does not work. … the reality is, we have just bought the world’s largest helicopter carrier.”
Speaking to a reporter after leaving the hearing, Massa noted his concern extended beyond the carrier program.
“This actually goes to a larger subset than just EMALS,” Massa said. “Across the library of the Department of Defense, we have committed ourselves to taking leaps in the second and third generations of the next great technologies without any fallback positions.
“This is bigger than EMALS. This is about maintaining a carrier strike force that can answer the nation’s requirements. We are already accepting an aberration … as to the number of carriers we can maintain on active duty by accepting the early retirement of the USS Enterprise. If [the future USS Gerald R. Ford] is delayed, it has exceptionally significant impacts on our carrier strike force.
“The fulcrum of delay is the electro-magnetic launching system,” Massa continued. “The decision has been made to go to Las Vegas, put the Navy’s life savings on the crap table, and roll the technological dice. We’ve never done this before.