Navy Shipbuilding: Need to Document Rationale for the Use of Fixed-Price Incentive Contracts and Study Effectiveness of Added Incentives.
(Source: US Government Accountability Office; issued March 1, 2017)
Over 80 percent of the Navy’s shipbuilding contracts awarded over the past 10 years were fixed-price incentive (FPI). However, GAO found that half of the six selected contracts it reviewed did not document the Navy’s justification for selecting this contract type. Moreover, key documents that should describe the rationale for selecting contract elements varied across these contracts.

Given the Navy’s plans to invest billions of dollars in shipbuilding programs in the future, without adequate documentation on the rationale for use of an FPI contract and key decisions made about FPI contract elements, contracting officers will not have the information they need to make sound decisions at the negotiation table.

Department of Defense (DOD) regulation suggests, as a point of departure for contract negotiations, that the government and shipbuilders share the cost risk equally and set a ceiling price 20 percent higher than the negotiated target cost. GAO found that, for most of the 40 ships on the contracts reviewed, these contract terms resulted in the Navy absorbing more cost risk, as shown below.

Many factors inform the Navy’s and shipbuilder’s negotiation positions, including the stability of the supplier base and extent of competition. That said, guidance states that the FPI contract elements should be the primary incentive for motivating the shipbuilder to control costs. But GAO found that in five of the six contracts, the Navy added over $700 million in incentives.

Of the 11 ships delivered as of December 2015 under the six contracts, 8 experienced cost growth. In one case, costs grew nearly 45 percent higher than the negotiated target cost. Further, it is unclear whether the additional incentives achieved intended cost and schedule outcomes, as GAO found a mixed picture among the contracts reviewed. Regulation, while not prescriptive, highlights the benefits of measuring the effectiveness of incentives. According to a senior Navy contracting official, the Navy has not measured incentive outcomes for its shipbuilding portfolio.

Without assessing whether adding incentives is effective in improving shipbuilder performance, the Navy is missing an opportunity to better inform decisions about whether to include additional incentives in future awards.


Click here for the full report (54 PDF pages) on the GAO website.

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