By Rear Adm. (select) James Downey
DDG-1000 Program Manager
Today, the U.S. Navy accepted delivery of the most technically complex and advanced warship the world has ever seen. In just a matter of minutes, with a few key signatures and a small group of Navy and industry personnel present, this first in class, state of the art warship, which is the result of over 20 years of research, planning, development, construction, test and activation – shifted hands from the Bath Iron Works shipyard to our great Navy.
Though ship delivery was not accompanied by a grandiose ceremony, parade or other frills one would expect, its magnitude cannot be denied. This day represents the culmination of years of hard work and unwavering dedication by one of the most talented teams of civilian, military and industry partners. Building a first-of-class ship is no small feat, and this team faced their share of challenges in doing so. Inspiration, however, was never one of them. Adm. Elmo “Bud” Zumwalt Jr., whose name will forever be inscribed on the ship’s stern, was a man who led by inspiration. He inspired people, ideas, change and innovation, and he was a firm believer that it has always been and will always be the people that set our great Navy apart from the rest. Throughout the 20 year history of this program and its people, inspiration, innovation and purpose have always been the threads that tied the success of this program together. Today marks the culmination of more than two decades of shipbuilding milestones. In the interest of space and time, I offer the abridged version.
This program has come a long way since the preliminary concept designs of the ’90s and the engineering and modeling of the early 2000s. It wasn’t until we started fabrication in 2009 and laid the keel in 2011 that the idea of DDG-1000 started to take shape and become more of reality. With the erection of the deckhouse in 2012 and the arrival of the first crew members in 2013, this ship started to feel more like a warship than a hull. The last year has been punctuated by program highlights as DDG-1000 prepared for delivery and construction progressed across the other two hulls. Personally, I will never forget the first day Zumwalt got underway – December 7, 2015. The pride (and relief) was overwhelming. We completed two more sets of sea trials in March and April of 2016, ensuring the readiness and quality of the ship we received today.
I’ve learned many valuable lessons throughout my 2,117 days responsible for this program.
- First and foremost, distance is nothing. Though Bath, Maine, and DC are more than 500 miles apart, the turning of a bolt on the ship moves the gears in the Pentagon and in Congress.
- Much of the success of this program is based on taking calculated risk and owning that risk. After Adm. Zumwalt assumed his role as CNO, he told his staff, “My basic philosophy is, if a proposed change is in doubt, make it and see what happens. It is easy to get a thousand reasons why you shouldn’t do something…change it and see how loud the screams are.”
- As practiced by this ship’s namesake, value your people. Technology and capability change by the minute. What doesn’t change is the drive and the dedication of the people you are leading. They are your greatest investment.
As I reflect on this program’s past, present and future, I can tell you what you already know…that shipbuilding is hard. That building DDG-1000 was very hard. But the greatest rewards don’t usually come easily, and those of you building ships that join our Fleet and protect and defend this great country know this. I can say without any doubt that there is nothing more gratifying than being part of the mission of serving this country and those who fight for it. But in truth, we can only do our jobs because of those who have paved the way before us. Yes, today is a great day for the program and the Navy, and what you’ll see in media headlines is that “DDG-1000 Delivered!” But for members of the DDG-1000 team and me, personally, the fundamental significance of today is about remembering the sacrifices made by our men and women in uniform and our duty to honor it. What we deliver today is more than a tool. It’s more than a capability. It’s a promise of protection and an assurance in a long-standing tradition of maritime power.
Today, we celebrate the world’s greatest Navy taking ownership of the world’s greatest ship.