(Bloomberg) — Navy Secretary Richard Spencer says he told President Donald Trump to fire him if he can’t fix the weapons elevators on the service’s new $13 billion aircraft carrier.
“We’ll see if I’m here after August,” Spencer said at a conference Tuesday when asked about the status of the 11 elevators on the USS Gerald R. Ford that are needed to lift munitions from below-deck magazines for loading on jets.
Spencer, a former investment banker, said he made the offer during a chat with Trump about the carrier’s technology at the annual Army-Navy football game last month.
“I asked him to stick out his hand, he stuck his hand out and I said, ‘Let’s do this like corporate America.’ I shook his hand” and said “the elevators will be ready to go when she pulls out” in August after the vessel’s post-delivery shakedown phase is finished “or you can fire me.”
Trump has expressed doubt in the past about the advanced technology on the new carrier, especially an electromagnetic catapult system to launch aircraft that replaces an older steam-driven version. Trump said in a Thanksgiving call to U.S. service members that “steam is very reliable, and the electromagnetic — I mean, unfortunately, you have to be Albert Einstein to really work it properly.”
Spencer said Tuesday that he explained to Trump the advantages of the new system over steam and that “we’ve got the bugs out.”
The Ford, the first in a new class of carriers, was built by Huntington Ingalls Industries Inc. None of the Advanced Weapons Elevators were installed before the carrier was delivered in May 2017 — about 32 months later than planned.
The elevators, which are moved by magnets rather than cables, have been dogged by shipboard installation problems, including four instances of unsafe “uncommanded movements” since 2015, according to the Navy.
“We’ve got to get it done,” Spencer said in his appearance at the Center for a New American Security in Washington. “I know I’m going to get it done,” he said. “I haven’t been fired by anyone” and “being fired by the president isn’t really top of my list.”
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