LCS Program - 2009 GAO Review
The Navy adopted a concurrent design-build strategy for the first two LCS seaframes, which has proven unsuccessful. Contributing challenges included the implementation of new design guidelines, delays in major equipment deliveries, and an unwavering focus on achieving schedule and performance goals. These events drove low levels of outfitting, out-of-sequence work, and rework-all of which increased construction costs. Also, incomplete designs during construction led to weight increases for both seaframes. According to the Navy, this weight growth contributed to a higher than desired center of gravity on LCS 1 that degraded the stability of the seaframe. In fact, an inclining experiment performed during acceptance trials showed LCS 1 may not meet Navy stability requirements for the damaged ship condition. The Navy is taking steps to remove weight and implement stability improvements for LCS 1, while also incorporating design changes for future seaframes.
In March 2009 the Government Accountability Office found that Fifteen of 19 critical technologies for the two seaframe designs were fully mature, and 2 technologies are approaching maturity. The overhead launch and retrieval system in the LCS 1 design and the aluminum structure in the LCS 2 design are immature. The Navy identified the watercraft launch and recovery concept as a major risk to both seaframe designs. This capability is essential to complete the LCS anti-submarine warfare and mine countermeasures missions. According to the Navy, industry watercraft launch and recovery designs are unproven.
To mitigate risk, the Navy is conducting launch and recovery modeling and simulation, model basin testing, and experimentation and is encouraging the seaframe industry teams to adopt similar approaches. Final integration of mission package vehicles with each seaframe will not occur until post-delivery test and trials-planned first for LCS 1 in 2010 using the mine countermeasures mission package. Any problems detected could require redesign and costly rework, which could delay the introduction of LCS to the fleet.
The Navy assesses LCS design stability by monitoring changes to requirements documents, execution of engineering change proposals, and the completion of contract deliverables related to drawings, ship specifications, and independent certification of the design. Construction is monitored using earned value management and through evaluation of manufacturing hours spent on rework, deficiencies detected and corrected, and the number of test procedures performed.
As part of LCS 1 acceptance trials, the Navy's Board of Inspection and Survey (INSURV) identified 21 critical "starred" deficiencies and recommended the Chief of Naval Operations authorize delivery of LCS 1 after correction or waiver of these deficiencies. According to Navy officials, only 9 of these deficiencies were corrected prior to delivery. Navy officials report that transiting the ship away from Marinette, Wisconsin, prior to the winter freeze was a higher priority than timely correction of starred deficiencies. The Navy intends to correct remaining deficiencies during planned post-delivery maintenance availabilities. The Navy plans to hold an INSURV review of LCS 2 upon completion of construction and builder's trials for that seaframe. Navy officials report that the earned value management systems in each of the LCS shipyards do not meet Defense Contract Management Agency requirements for validation. Thus, the cost and schedule data reported by the prime contractors cannot be considered fully reliable by the Navy when evaluating contractor cost proposals or negotiating for construction of follow-on ships.
The Navy stated the LCS program is delivering vital capabilities to the fleet and will be a critical component of the Navy. It noted that LCS 1 was delivered September 18, 2008-6 years and 1 day after the LCS program was established. In fiscal year 2009, the program will deliver a second ship of a completely different design. According to the Navy, while the initial cost and schedule objectives were overaggressive - and necessitated a concurrent design and construction plan - they provided the tension and urgency for these achievements, and lessons learned will be applied to future shipbuilding programs. In August 2008, INSURV evaluated LCS 1 and found it to be "capable, well-built, and inspection-ready." The Navy stated it is leveraging lessons learned from LCS 1 and LCS 2 to ensure future ship awards provide the right mix of capability and affordability.
Operation of the MCM, SUW, and ASW packages on the LCS requires a total of 25 critical technologies, including 13 sensors, 5 weapons, and 7 vehicles. Of these technologies, 17 are currently mature and 8 are nearing maturity.
The first of 24 MCM packages was delivered in September 2007 and included 7 of 10 planned mission systems. Four systems are not yet mature; two of these are struggling to reach full maturity. Officials note the Organic Airborne and Surface Influence Sweep is being redesigned to address corrosion issues and the Rapid Airborne Mine Clearance System requires design changes to perform in all environmental conditions. An airborne mine countermeasures system was decertified and its tow cable is being redesigned following the results of testing with the helicopter. The Navy also decertified the Remote Minehunting System during testing in 2007 due to reliability issues, and, according to officials, results of a recent operational assessment are pending. The Navy now plans to deliver the third and fourth mission packages in fiscal year 2011 and has delayed delivery of the baseline package until fiscal year 2012.
The first of 24 SUW packages was delivered in July 2008 and included 1 of 2 planned mission systems. The SUW package includes the fully mature 30mm gun and a variant of the Army's Non-Line-of-Sight (NLOS) system (missile and launcher), which is nearing maturity. The first package consisted of two gun engineering development models, without the NLOS launcher or missiles. The NLOS design for LCS has not yet been validated. Integration of the gun with LCS is not complete. A design review for the gun module is scheduled for October 2009. Delivery of a baseline package has been delayed to fiscal year 2013.
The first of 16 ASW packages was delivered in September 2008 and included 4 of 10 planned mission systems. Three systems remain immature including the Unmanned Surface Vehicle's Dipping Sonar, the Remotely Towed Array and the Remotely Towed Array Source. Failure to develop these technologies as expected could increase reliance on the MH-60R helicopter. The Navy has delayed delivery of a second ASW package until fiscal year 2011, and delayed baseline capability from fiscal year 2011 to 2013.
The development cost of the LCS packages has increased by more than $300 million, or 64 percent since last year. Procurement costs have decreased for MCM, in part because the delivery of the more expensive baseline capability has been delayed. Reductions in fiscal year 2008 and 2009 budget requests have slowed mission package procurement to account for continuing delays in seaframe acquisition. The explanatory statement accompanying DOD Appropriation Act for Fiscal Year 2009 Congress asked the Navy to develop a plan for fielding the MCM capability independent of LCS.
The program office indicates all packages are currently scheduled to undergo operational assessments with both LCS seaframe designs, beginning in June 2010. According to program officials, in September 2008, the Navy conducted a shore based integration exercise using simulated seaframe mission bays. Officials note this activity accelerated MCM mission package integration with both seaframes and reinforced previous crew training.
Program officials noted that changes to the program between the 2008 and 2009 president's budgets resulted in an apparent increased development cost. Costs for the SUW package bought in fiscal year 2009 were realigned from procurement to development to support technical and operational evaluations. In addition, data provided to GAO for last year's assessment did not include costs of common equipment that was subsequently distributed among the MCM and ASW packages. The program office acknowledges technical maturity challenges for some mission systems and is working closely with mission system program offices to resolve any issues. The program office is leading a coordinated test approach to prove mission package capabilities and suitability for fleet delivery. The program office also provided technical comments that were incorporated as appropriate.