- Why SIRCS Failed Defense Systems Management Review">
RIM-113 Shipboard Intermediate Range Combat Systems (SIRCS)
The Shipboard Intermediate Range Combat System (SIRCS) was conceptually a complete shipboard modular combat system which addresses and integrates the role of sensors, weapon systems, electronic warfare and decoy subsystems in the context of the future threat and the total ship mission requirement.
Given that Naval ships are vulnerable to air attack, how should the function of air defense be partitioned between general "area" air defense of a group of ships, and "point," or "self" air defense by individual ships (both sub-functions)? This is the functional domain within which configuration choices were made for SIRCS as a "point" air defense system (SIRCS also was required to provide each ship with a capability to strike at nearby surface ship and land targets). Historically, the Navy has made virtually all of its capital investment in the equipment for "area," not "point," air defense (TERRIER, TARTAR, TALOS, now AEGIS on surface ships; SPARROW, PHOENIX, now AMRAAM on carrier-based interceptor aircraft, supplemented by carrier-based early warning aircraft).
The Navy had been severely criticized by Congress for a lack of combat systems approach and for near-term defieiencies. SIRCS provided the required systems approach. The Navy had an effective near-term program. The major elements of the near-term efforts were the PHALANX CIWS, the ASMD Missile, the SEASPARROW missile improvements and the guided projectile. It was considered that these programs were a significantly more economical approach than expending scarce resources to provide marginal improvements to obsolete systems. The near-term deficiencies would be the result of lack of long term system planning and development. If the Navy was to provide total combat systems to the Fleet for self defense and intermediate range offensive strike operations in the 1980's, a total systems oriented development must be pursued.
The Commission of Government Procurement (COGP) was chartered by Congress to determine what must be done to cure the numerous ills associated with the Federal Procurement Programs. The COGP presented their recommendations to Congress in December 1972. The newly established SIRCS Program was directed by the Secretary of the Navy to be the Navy's pilot program to implement the COGP Recommendations. The conclusion was that the SIRCS Program was in consonance with the COGP Recommendations. The cultural revolution inherent in the commission's recommendations for major system acquisition was difficult for technically versed government engineers to accept, particularly in a Naval ordnance community that is accustomed to making its own engineering decisions. For decades this engineering administration community had the responsibility for keeping the Navy updated with equipment that tended not to have direct commercial relevance.
During the 93rd Congress (1973-74) Melvin Price (D., Ill.) chaired Subcommittee No. 1 (research and development) of the House Armed Services Committee. The subcommittee acquired the services of Anthony R. Battista, a Civil Service ordnance engineer from the Naval Weapons Laboratory, Dahlgren, Virginia. He was familiar with the technical and programmatic particulars of many of the Navy's neglected surface ship ordnance programs, especially in the area of fire control. Throughout the 4-year hearing record of SIRCS, Mr. Battista has clearly stated his preference for using less-expensive gun ammunition instead of the greater- than- $100,000 -a -copy guided missiles for "point" ship self defense. Why the Navy would have formulated a program for SIRCS that was so divergent to the subcommittee's evident interest is not at all clear and is the central unanswered question on SIRCS.
The acquisition strategy adopted and the classified operational requirement, called for a total, modular combat weapon system capable of being scaled up or down for specific ship platforms. This system would provide a detection through engagement capability. This requirement should be met by a mix of sensor, weapons, command and control, electronic warfare, and decoy sub-systems. New developments in each of these areas are not necessarily required or desired under this OR (operational requirement). Rather, new subsystems developments should be fully integrated with appropriate existing capabilities (or growth variations of present and planned systems) to obtain an optimum system capability and meet defined requirements. It specified the projected threat of sea-skimming missiles and other aspects of the tactical future.
The Shipboard Intermediate Range Combat System was the first major system acquisition program conducted by the government ir accordance with the commission's recommendations. SIRCS was first presented to the 94th Congress (1975-1976). The Office of the Secretary of Defense endorsed this Navy program to the General Accounting Office as being a "model," a conscientious embodiment of the latest principles of efficient acquisition management.
The formal RFP was then promulgated, and seven industry proposals were received just before Christmas 1975. In the midst of the FY 1977 hearings and mark-up uncertainties over SIRCS, the Navy in May 1976 completed its source selection process and awarded three concept formulation study contracts, one each to RCA, Raytheon, and McDonnell-Douglas. Raytheon was also an AMRAAM study contractor for SPARROW for over a decade. The final oral progress briefings on their respective concepts for SIRCS were scheduled for RCA, Raytheon, and McDonnell Douglas for the early weeks of 1977.
SIRCS met a mixed fate in the appropriations process for FY 1977. Emphasizing the general congressional discontent with proliferating types of tactical missiles, with no evidence that the services were working together to establish common use, the House Committee on Appropriations deleted the total SIRCS funding request. The House deletion of the requested $16,100,000 for the program terminated all effort for the program. As SIRCS represents the only long term self-defense combat system development program, the Navy would be forced to continue a near term, quick reaction approach to self-defense intermediate range offense systems into the 1990's.
Only in the Senate Committee on Appropriations did SIRCS receive favorable support because of the considerable interest of Senator Lawton Chiles who supported SIRCS because of the larger aspect of its example as the first programmatic test of OMB Circular No. A-109.
The planned FY 1977 SIRCS effort completed concept formulation by four contractor teams. At that point the technical and management alternatives would be available for review before proceeding to advanced development in FY 1978. The FY 1977 effort must be completed in order to confirm that the early industry involvement approach does offer significant benefits to the system acquisition process. The contractor teams had been formed and concept formulation was to start in late FY 1976. Failure to continue this effort to completion would prejudice industry in further comittment to this acquisition strategy.
The next Congress terminated SIRCS. The SIRCS cost estimate had grown to over $650 million, more than the Navy's newest area air defense system, AEGIS, then in a mature stage of development. By the fall of 1977 a further evaluation of sources and designs was completed: RCA (the AEGIS contractor, incidentally) was dropped, and McDonnell-Douglas and Raytheon were picked to continue. A DSARC I milestone of August 1978 was set for SIRCS. The authorization conference decision, passed into law, was to delete the total funding request for SIRCS. Money cannot be appropriated for an unauthorized program. The first comprehensive attempt to implement the policies of OMB Circular A-109" ended in failure.
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