The congressional analysts said in a new report the first of the Ford-class flattops were running into "technical, design, and construction challenges" that had already put the USS Gerald Ford over budget and behind schedule.
The Navy plans to spend $43 billion to build three Ford-class ships. However, the GAO said the program might need to be slowed down so the swarm of bugs and unproven technology issues, which have bogged down the construction schedule, can be ironed out.
Some of the concerns about the Ford's progress stemmed from the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, which has had its own design headaches. Others include the reliability of some key systems of the ship and the plans for post-delivery testing.
The agency said in a written statement that the Navy planned to build the second Ford carrier, the USS John F. Kennedy, in identical fashion to the Ford. The main construction contract for the Kennedy, designated CVN 79 by the Navy, is to be awarded later this month.
"The shipbuilder plans to employ a new, more efficient build strategy, but remaining technical and design risks with the lead ship could interfere with the Navy's ability to achieve its desired cost savings for CVN 79," the GAO said in a written statement. "These uncertainties also affect the soundness of the Navy's current CVN 79 cost estimate, which is optimistic."
The Navy disagreed with the idea of extending the timeline for awarding key contracts so further systems testing can be carried out, but agreed or partially agreed with proposals to improve testing standards and cost-benefit analysis, the GAO said.