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THE COMMITTEE ON NAVAL AFFAIRS,
Saturday, January 11, 1913. The committee this day met, Hon. Lemuel P. Padgett (chairman) presiding
STATEMENT OF HON. GEORGE v. L. MEYER, SECRETARY OF THE
The CHAIRMAN. Gentlemen of the committee, we have with us this morning the Secretary of the Navy.
Mr. Secretary, the committee will be pleased to hear any suggestions which you may have to offer with reference to the Navy and its welfare.
Secretary MEYER. I would like to preface my remarks by commenting on my own report. In looking over the hearings I notice that there is a reference to aviation which might have given the impression that it was the committee which limited the amount to $20,000. It was not intended to give that idea. Therefore it is an error to have it worded as it is. The limit came from the bureau, not from the committee. I just want to call this to the attention of the committee.
There are several matters which I would like to call to the committee's attention, and with your permission I will take up the annual report and then touch on certain matters which I have marked on the margin.
The CHAIRMAN. We shall be glad to have you proceed in such way as you may desire, Mr. Secretary.
Secretary MEYER. I would like to bring to the attention of the committee the matter of the cost of guns as made by the Navy now, Some two years ago Gen. Crozier brought out figures showing the cost of guns at that time, the cost according to his figures being considerably less at Watervliet. Afterwards he qualified those figures to some extent, but they were still lower or fully as low as they were at our works. I took the matter up at that time and appointed Admiral Willits to go and study what they were doing at Watervliet, and also at Bethlehem and Midvale, and we made some improvements in the methods at Washington. It might interest the committee, therefore, to know what bids were recently received from the Washington Navy Yard, Watervliet, Midvale, and Bethlehem. For the 14-inch gun complete our bid at the Washington yard was $19,837, the bid of the Army factory was $55,427; in one instance the bid of the private firm was $84,062, and in the other case it was $86,250, showing that the navy yard figures were the lowest on the guns completed. The bids on the 14-inch gun without breech mechanism were: Washington Navy Yard, $45,762; Watervliet, the Army factory, $51,227;
one private firm, $76,950; and the other private firm, $79,138. On the 5-inch gun the Navy's bid was $7,202, the Army's bid $8,130, and the bid of the private firm $10,430.
The CHAIRMAN. Have you any bids with reference to the 12-inch guns?
Secretary MEYER. No, sir; because we have departed from the 12inch guns to the 14-inch guns.
The CHAIRMAN. You are not making any more 12-inch guns at all?
Secretary MEYER. These bids were asked for in order to place the contracts where they would be the cheapest for the new ships.
The CHAIRMAN. Hereafter in replacing guns would it be possible to supplant the 12-inch guns with 14-inch guns upon the ships that are now carrying 12-inch guns?
Secretary MEYER. I believe that is not advisable, but it is a matter which would require expert opinion. Of course, when the ship is designed the consideration of weight and everything else is taken into account, and to what extent 14-inch guns could be put in place of 12-inch guns I would prefer to have you ask the chief constructor and the ordnance expert.
The CHAIRMAN. As they have been before the committee, could you place a statement in the record?
Secretary MEYER. Yes, sir. The Bureau of Ordnance considers it entirely impracticable to substitute 14-inch guns in any ships, except possibly the Arkansas and Wyoming.
It would cost $160,000 per gun, as far as the Bureau of Ordnance alone is concerned, or $3,840,000 for the two ships, and this amount would provide only one fill of ammunition.
The change, if practicable in these two ships, would require three years to accomplish.
In addition, the magazines would all require changing to suit the larger ammunition, and additional space would be necessary to provide stowage for the required number of rounds.
The present turret foundations, turret-training gear, elevating gear, turret supports, the turrets themselves, and the barbettes would all have to be removed and new structures fitted. This would involve a large increase in weight, and, on account of the location of the same, the stability of the vessel would require careful consideration.
As a rough estimate, the cost would be approximately 40 per cent of the cost of the vessel.
Mr. ROBERTS. Probably putting on 14-inch guns instead of 12inch guns would mean structural changes.
Mr. GREGG. I was talking with an officer at Philadelphia when over there on that very question, and he said that the structural changes would be so great that he did not believe it would be practicable.
Secretary MEYER. It would mean new turrets, and I do not think the change should be made. We should replace the gun with one of the same caliber.
The CHAIRMAN. Having that in mind and having had conversations heretofore with officers indicating that opinion, it occurred to me that we had so many ships with 12-inch guns that the manu
facture of 12-inch guns would continue an important element in gun manufacture?
Secretary MEYER. The life of a gun is so many rounds, and afterwards they reline it.
The CHAIRMAN. Yes, sir.
Mr. WITHERSPOON. Are not the prices you have given for the manufacture of guns much less than they were some years ago?
Secretary MEYER. We are doing much better at Washington. We have that plant up to the highest efficiency.
Mr. WITHERSPOON. I had an impression that the guns cost $60,000.
Secretary MEYER. The prices are much less, but I could not tell you the exact difference without looking at the other prices. I can insert that in the hearing. For what period would you like to have it?
Mr. WITHERSPOON. Say four or five years back.
Mr. GREGG. Substituting 14-inch guns for 12-inch guns, if it is practicable to do so, I would like to have a statement as to the probable cost.
Secretary MEYER. It is not considered practicable to do so, and the cost would probably be 40 per cent of the whole cost of the vessel. The policy we have been pursuing as regards ships already designed is that it is an error of judgment, from a financial as well as a military point of view, to attempt to modernize a ship that has once been constructed and completed. We believe it is much wiser now to keep the expenditure down to what is necessary to keep her up to her efficiency as she was designed and to bring out marked improvements in the designs of the new ships. The other method was pursued in the past at an enormous expense, and by the time you have completed your alterations, which takes one or two years, a great many new military features have been developed, and you do not have a new ship, but an old, revamped ship, at a cost out of proportion to her military efficiency.
The "CHAIRMAN. Just at that point, Mr. Secretary: last year I asked Admiral Twining the cost, and he said that “a 12-inch gun of the latest type costs about $60,000 to complete; that is, the gun itself, not including the mount."
Mr. GREGG. Your figures a while ago, Mr. Secretary, included the mount?
Secretary MEYER. No, sir.
The CHAIRMAN. Admiral Twining said that that was the cost complete, not including the mount.
Mr. GREGG. I asked the Secretary whether his figures included the mount?
Secretary MEYER. No, sir; the guns complete in the yard cost $49,837, and the lowest bid of a private firm was $84,062.
Mr. GREGG. Does that include the mount?
The CHAIRMAN. Admiral Twining said “the mount for the 12-inch gun would not cost as much as the gun itself.”
Mr. Foss. I am speaking of the entire cost of the gun and mount.
Secretary MEYER. The mount is not here. It says " 14-inch guns complete.”
The CHAIRMAN. My recollection is that I asked him later on in this hearing about the 14-inch guns, and he said that a 14-inch gun would cost $110,000.
Secretary MEYER. With the mount? The CHAIRMAN. Yes, sir. Mr. WITHERSPOON. Mr. Secretary, you need not go to the trouble of answering my question, because I see that the information is in the record.
Secretary MEYER. There is a difference of over $30,000 saving in the Washington yard on the 14-inch gun, per gun. The Washington yard is of immeasurable value in getting at the cost and having the factory as an asset to the Government.
Mr. GREGG. Do we buy most of the guns or make them?
Secretary MEYER. We make all we can at the gun factory and buy the rest.
Mr. GREGG. We have not the capacity to make them all?
Secretary MEYER. No, sir; we wanted to enlarge the Washington factory, and from time to time they have allowed us to increase its efficiency and capacity somewhat. Previous to my becoming Secretary, I think, there was an effort made to enlarge the factory.
Mr. ROBERTS. A plan was submitted to the committee involving an expenditure of some four or five million dollars.
Secretary MEYER. We believe it is an advantage. however, not to make all the guns.
Mr. GREGG. You want outside plants?
Secretary MEYER. Yes, sir; in case of emergency, so we can enlarge our orders in time of need.
Mr. GREGG. If we enlarged the plant we could make a larger percentage of our own guns?
Secretary MEYER. Yes, sir.
The CHAIRMAN. What effect would the manufacture by the Gov. ernment of a larger proportion of our own guns have upon the maintenance of the outside factories; might it not reach the point where they would be abandoned ?
Secretary MEYER. If carried too far.
Secretary MEYER. The determination as to whether guns shall be built at the Naval Gun Factory or elsewhere is made on a consideration of the following points:
The ability of the Naval Gun Factory to do the work within the required time; the relative cost at the Naval Gun Factory and elsewhere; the desirability of keeping the Naval Gun Factory, the Watervliet Arsenal, and private establishments supplied with a sufficient amount of work to insure their being ready to manufacture guns for the Government in an emergency.
The actual manufacture of guns at the Naval Gun Factory constitutes about 10 per cent of the work of that establishment; the capacity can not be increased except at considerable expense, and in any case could be accomplished in only one of two ways, namely: Assign more of the existing shop space to gun manufacture, to the detriment
of other work, or make an increase in the total manufacturing facilities of the yard.
At present guns of any caliber from the highest to the lowest can be built at the Naval Gun Factory, the Watervliet Arsenal, the Bethlehem Steel Co., and the Midvale Steel Co.
In addition to these four places there exists a plant at Bridgeport, Conn. (the American & British Manufacturing Co.), which can manufacture guns of 4-inch caliber and below.
As a rule, and particularly when there is a continuous and consistent shipbuilding program followed by Congress, the Naval Gun Factory has been supplied with work of gun manufacture up to the limit of its capacity, and it has been necessary, in addition, to place a certain amount of work with the other establishments named. None of these except the Naval Gun Factory has, however, been kept constantly employed on Government work of this kind, there being frequently lapses of several months between the fulfillment of one contract and the beginning of another. While the private establishments would, of course, prefer to have continuous work, the existing arrangement seems to have been satisfactory enough to prevent them from going out of the gun-manufacturing business altogether, and as it is the object of the Government to prevent this rather than to provide work for private manufacturing concerns merely for the purpose of giving them work, there would
seem to be no necessity for a change from the present arrangement.
If the facilities at the Naval Gun Factory were expanded without a corresponding expansion in the total amount of gun-manufacturing work (and this depends on the shipbuilding policy pursued by Congress), the result would be that the other establishments would get less work, and it is probable that one or more of the private concerns would find it necessary, for business reasons, to go out of the gunmaking business altogether. It is, of course, not possible to say with certainty just where they would draw the line, and it is possible that some diminution of work might be accepted by them without their going out of the business altogether.
The cost of gun work has been steadily decreasing for some time past at the Naval Gun Factory, and consequently the department has been able to demand lower prices from private manufacturers. The Bureau of Ordnance has, during the past year, been engaged in an exhaustive investigation of the matter of relative costs at the gun factory and at private establishments, and is now in a position to judge with a good deal of accuracy of the justness of prices offered by private parties. This has been accomplished by a careful analysis of all elements of cost at the gun factory, comparing these with similar elements at private concerns, and, in addition, considering and analyzing additional costs to which private parties are subjected, and by a combination of all these data arriving at the proper price which should be paid to outside firms.
The danger in establishing a Government plant of large capacity is that political and other considerations may force the department into employing an unnecessarily large number of men, or, if this result is avoided, in maintaining in idleness a large and expensive manufacturing plant which is not capable of being devoted to other work.