LPD-17 SAN ANTONIO Class Origins
(formerly LX Class)
The Amphibious Warfare Program Office [PMS377] was assigned responsibility for the LX Acquisition Program (which subsequently became the LPD 17 Program) in 1988. The LX program was defined in the 1990 Navy Integrated Amphibious Operations and Marine Corps Air Support Requirements Study. In 1990, the Joint Requirements Oversight Council, headed by the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, validated a Mission Need Statement (MNS) for the LX, a ship design that would assume the roles of the 38 retiring vessels of the Austin (LPD 4), Raleigh (LPD 1), Anchorage (LSD 36), and Newport (LST 1179) classes.
The Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) proposed 13 variants of the LX for study. Two of these variants were upgrades of the relatively new LSD 41-class vessel, while the remaining 11 were completely new ships. The list was impressive as vessels varied from just over 600 feet in length to nearly 900 feet, displacing from 17,000 tons to over 45,000 tons. After much deliberation, naval planners recently narrowed the list to two choices. The first option was to develop the LX 901, a 684 foot vessel that displaces 23,000 tons. The remaining option is to build the LX 88H, a much larger vessel at 765 feet in length, displacing 33,000 tons. The Navy finally settled on the smaller design.
In 1995 Chief of Naval Operations' Expeditionary Warfare Division (N75) orchestrated the development of an LPD 17 Class Operational Requirements Document (ORD) that infused Fleet and Marine Corps input into direction for the future amphibious transport dock ship. Sustaining the naval interaction from the ORD effort, the Design Team employed the "Design For Ownership" concept to communicate with and receive input from the Fleet's operating forces - the Navy and Marine Corps operators, maintainers, and trainers who ultimately will use the ship. This unique engineering approach injected Warfighter inputs early on in the development process through a series of sessions known as Virtual Crew. During Virtual Crew sessions, subject matter experts, ranging from flag and general Officers to petty officers and sergeants, refined and validated space arrangements, shipboard processes, and pre-commissioning crew planning before construction commenced.
At one time as many as 46 ships of this class were planned. From 1995 to 1999, according to its fiscal year 1995 plan, the Navy planned to buy five LPD-17 (formerly LX) amphibious assault ships. Projected procurement through 2010 declined slightly, from nine LPD-17 ships in 1991 to seven ships by 1994.
Procurement of the first LPD-17 amphibious transport dock was delayed two years, to FY 1998, because of budgetary constraints. Twelve ships of this class were needed to sustain the goal of providing lift capacity for 2.5 Marine brigade-equivalents. Due to early retirements, one portion of lift capability -- vehicle space -- has dropped relative to desired levels. The delay in the LPD-17 program will slow the recovery of this element of lift capacity, although the retention of 11 older amphibious ships (LKAs and LSTs) in special reserve status will offset this loss somewhat.
Request for proposals were issued April 1996. Award was to be made to the responsible offeror whose offer was most advantageous to the government under four evaluation categories: (1) detail design, total ship systems integration, testing, logistics and life cycle support planning, (2) Integrated Product Data Environment (IPDE), (3) ownership cost -- that is, life cycle cost (LCC) -- reduction approach, and (4) price (cost). The nonprice categories were "significantly more important" than the price category. Two proposals -- from the Ingalls Full Service Contractor team (Ingalls) and the Avondale Alliance team -- were received by the closing time on June 28, 1996.
Both proposals were found acceptable under category 1 (detail design, total ship systems integration, testing, logistics and life cycle support planning). The NAVSEA Source Selection Advisory Council (SSAC) noted that Ingalls's proposal was evaluated as containing "numerous serious weaknesses" in this area such that the SSAC had come "very close to determining that Ingalls was unacceptable." The SSAC expected that the weaknesses "would impact the effectiveness of the Offeror's performance and its success in achieving certain goals integral to this solicitation, including an integrated approach to management, a concurrent engineering approach to ship detail design, total ship systems integration, construction, testing, logistics, and life cycle support planning, and an integrated data approach designed to produce increased life cycle savings."
Under category 2, NAVSEA evaluated Avondale's IPDE approach as outstanding, but rated Ingalls's approach as only marginal. The SSAC determined that "[Avondale's] proposed IPDE approach convincingly demonstrated that the ship configuration data will be available to all IPPD members on a real time basis and easily updated to reflect current status of key design and programmatic data. Streamlined configuration management of data is one of the keys to reduced life cycle costs. The Avondale approach is expected to result in substantial benefit to the Government in terms of efficient program management and reduced design and engineering change processing time. The NAVSEA Source Selection Evaluation Board (SSEB) concluded that Ingalls's "proposed IPDE implementation ... raises significant doubt regarding the Offeror's ability to provide timely access to an integrated data set.
Both proposals were found acceptable under category 3, ownership or LCC cost reduction. The SSAC found "offsetting strengths and weaknesses" in the proposals, noting that "[t]he two biggest contributors to the cost of ship ownership are manning and maintenance, in that order. Avondale was stronger in its approach to reducing manning and Ingalls was stronger in its approach to reducing maintenance related life cycle costs. Although in some areas Ingalls's Category 3 proposal was judged to be more innovative technically than Avondale's, it was also considered to contain more significant weaknesses, and from a risk perspective, there is a higher risk that Ingalls will have difficulty in achieving its proposed life cycle cost savings."
Although Avondale's cost ($1,531,187,843 evaluated) under category 4 was somewhat higher than Ingalls's ($1,507,093,151 evaluated), the SSAC did not view the approximately $24 million (or 1.6 percent difference) in evaluated cost as significant.
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