Navy Talks the Way Forward for LCS Acquisition, Development

Today, Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Research, Development and Acquisition) Sean Stackley and Vice Adm. Richard Hunt, director of Navy Staff and chair of the Littoral Combat Ship Council, testified to the House Armed Services Seapower Subcommittee on LCS acquisition and development challenges in conjunction with the release of a Government Accountability Office report titled, “Navy Shipbuilding: Significant Investments in the Littoral Combat Ship Continue Amid Substantial Unknowns about Capabilities, Use, and Cost.”

In advance of the hearing and release of the report, Rear Adm. Thomas Rowden, director of Surface Warfare, spoke with media about LCS and the progress the Navy has made on issues identified by GAO as well as in the LCS OPNAV review, titled “Review of the Navy’s Readiness to Receive, Employ and Deploy the LCS Class Vessel” completed in March  2012.  The full script of the Rear Adm. Rowden’s opening statement is below.


Introduction

Good morning, I’m RADM Tom Rowden, Director of Surface Warfare.  I appreciate your participation today and the opportunity to talk about the Littoral Combat Ship program.

Two weeks ago, we posted a blog with the latest information on procurement, fleet operations, testing and mission modules — I believe our PA team sent that post and I encourage you to use it as a resource.

I know there has been a good deal of interest in the GAO report (Navy Shipbuilding: Significant Investments in the Littoral Combat Ship Continue Amid Substantial Unknowns about Capabilities, Use, and Cost) on LCS which is set to be released later this week, as well as the LCS OPNAV review entitled “Review of the Navy’s Readiness to Receive, Employ and Deploy the LCS Class Vessel” completed in March of 2012.

With regard to the GAO report, as part of any improvement process I believe it vital that we welcome and accept good hard looks, and then carefully consider recommendations drawn from those hard looks.  I appreciate the GAO and the effort they put into this report.  Navy cooperated with the GAO as they conducted their study for this report, and we will continue to work closely with them in the future.

While my focus today is the GAO report, I would like to acknowledge up front two other events from this week.  First, as reported by the Navy and in the media, Freedom had a loss of electrical power over the weekend.  As is the case across the Fleet, when a ship suffers a material casualty the crew recovers and moves on.   The ship made the prudent decision to return to port to investigate and address the issue.  I cannot and will not speculate on technical issues associated with this casualty.  I am confident the subject matter experts will sort it out.  I’ll let the Fleet speak to specifics on this, but we continue to take these opportunities to gather lessons learned.

Second, the House Armed Services Seapower Committee will conduct a hearing on LCS Thursday, based upon this GAO report.  We look forward to the opportunity to discuss this key program with Congressional leaders.

With the upcoming release of the GAO report, the Congressional hearing Thursday, and the ongoing Freedom deployment, today offers the ideal opportunity to address some of the issues raised by the GAO report and the OPNAV review and to discuss the steps the Navy has taken — here at N96, across the Fleet, and in our shipyards to address some of the issues raised.

GAO Report

Navy appreciates the oversight provided by the GAO and I would like to briefly walk you through the recommendations from the GAO’s report and Navy’s position of these recommendations.

Recommendation 1. When Navy awards the additional block buy contract for LCS 25 and beyond, to only procure a minimum quantity of ships until the completion of a full-rate production decision review and a revalidation of the Capabilities Development Document.

  • Navy did not concur with this recommendation.
  • The Navy plans to procure LCS in accordance with the most recent long-range shipbuilding plans while balancing available funding to achieve the lowest possible pricing for the government.
  • The current CDD defines the requirements to support the next ship procurement.  This, I think, is a key point worth repeating.  We planned these ships to deliver key capabilities in three mission areas in the littorals – Anti-Surface Warfare, Anti-Mine Warfare, and Anti-Submarine Warfare.  There has been a lot of dialogue but the central point remains: we need LCS to perform these missions in the littoral environment.

Recommendation 2. Prior to the full-rate production decision, report to Congress on advantages of each seaframe variant for each of the three mission areas.

  • Navy concurred with this recommendation and will conduct a Defense Acquisition Board review for ship procurement prior to the Request for Proposal release.

Recommendation 3. Ensure the Acquisition Program Baseline submitted for the Mission Modules Milestone B establishes program thresholds and objectives for cost, schedule, and performance for each increment.

  • Navy partially concurred with this recommendation. Time-phased fielding of capability and the associated performance metrics for testing will be defined in the Capability Production Document currently under development for each mission package.

Recommendation 4. The Navy should buy only the minimum qualities of mission module systems required to support operational testing to ensure mission modules do not outpace key milestones.

  • Navy partially concurred with this recommendation and agrees LCS mission modules procurement should not outpace delivery of the war ships.
  • However, Navy must procure mission packages at a rate necessary to:
  1. Support Initial Operational Tests and Evaluation of two LCS variants
  2. Support operational testing of each mission module capability as it is integrated and fielded
  3. Provide sufficient training infrastructure to support fleet training needs
  4. Pace LCS production to ensure that a sufficient number of mission packages are available to provide each LCS with a tailored capacity to support ship deployments

OPNAV Review

With respect to the OPNAV Readiness Review, Navy took a deliberately critical look at our own program to identify shortfalls so we could take aggressive steps to address them prior to the USS Freedom deployment.

The Readiness Review focused on seven systemic barriers: Concept of Operations, Manning, Maintenance, Training, Modularity, Mission Packages and Commonality.

I would like to briefly touch on the underlying issues and what Navy has done to address these matters.

Concept of Operations. The OPNAV Review concluded Fleet Stakeholders lack a common understanding of how the Navy intends to employ and operate LCS.

  • Navy has deployed USS Freedom in order to gain real-world operational experience and to afford the Fleet the opportunity to employ and operate the ship.

Manning. The OPNAV Review concluded the manning of LCS with 40 core crewmembers produces a fragile operational construct.

  • Navy has added 10 additional crew to USS Freedom to meet operational and maintenance demands placed on the crew

Maintenance. The OPNAV Review concluded LCS shipboard preventive and corrective maintenance negatively impact the operational availability of the ship.

  • USS Freedom has had multiple maintenance availabilities scheduled while operating out of Singapore and these periods have been executed as scheduled and allowed casualties to be quickly repaired, allowing the ship to return to tasking.

Training. The OPNAV Review concluded the “Training to Qualify / Training to Certify” program requires a lengthy and potentially costly training pipeline.

  • The LCS Council is exploring opportunities to mitigate the high up-front costs by extending training, adding crewmembers, and instituting a combination of the apprentice-to-journeyman and Train to Qualify/Train to Certify construct.

Modularity. The OPNAV Review concluded the modularity concept no longer has the tactical utility envisioned by the original designers.

  • The modular strategy for mission systems is a breakthrough concept for delivering cost effective capability by employing mature technologies to meet today’s warfighting requirements. It also provides tremendous flexibility to rapidly employ developing technologies to counter emerging threats.

Mission Packages. The OPNAV Review concluded Mission Packages are not delivering promised capabilities to fill capability gaps.

  • As part of the incremental delivery of capability, the Mission Package component systems are constantly being reevaluated as new systems emerge

Commonality. The OPNAV Review concluded Navy’s decision to deviate from its prescribed LCS acquisition strategy led to two distinct LCS variants with two distinct hull, maintenance and engineering (HM&E) systems and two combat systems, increasing the complexity and cost of the program.

  • The [LCS] Council finds there must be a continued focus on commonality, with the ultimate goal of commonality across the entire surface force, not simply between the two warships.
  • The FY16 and follow block buy (“Flight 1”) represent the Navy’s first opportunity to specify commonality as part of the acquisitions strategy, which will be formulated with commonality and reduced Total Ownership Cost as primary consideration
  • However, by sustaining two production lines Navy has employed competition in this program to such extent that it is the only shipbuilding program – and one of the very few Major Defense Acquisition Programs – wherein the unit cost in production is on a marked steady decline.

Conclusion

USS Freedom is reaching the midpoint of its successful first deployment to the Western Pacific. Navy’s intent is to take the knowledge gained from this deployment to refine the Concept of Operations for the Littoral Combat Ship program.

USS Independence is conducting mine warfare mission development and operational tests. USS Fort Worth is in a post shakedown availability in San Diego.  PCU Coronado has completed Builders Trials and last month the keels were laid for the future USS Montgomery (LCS 8) and USS Little Rock (LCS 9).

Here at Surface Warfare we realize the job is nowhere close to being completed.  We realize the future of LCS is not going to be smooth sailing but we are getting water under the hull and we know that LCS is the right ship to meet the needs of the surface combatant force.

I look forward to addressing your questions.

Post Q&A.

Thank you for your questions and for the opportunity

As I take a look around the world, there’s a lot going on—whether it’s in the East China Sea, East Sea, Philippine Sea, the Western Pacific, Strait of Malacca, Bay of Bengal, North Arabian Sea, Arabian Gulf eastern Mediterranean, even down to the Gulf of Guinea—there are lots of things happening in the world and the vast majority are either in the ocean or very close to the ocean.  There are a lot of tools that we the U.S. – and specifically the U.S. Navy – can use to address any concerns that we might have with respect to stability and security  around the world, both impacting us and our friends and allies.  I think we have a pretty large and significant toolbox—sometimes we use aircraft carriers, destroyers, or submarines.  Sometimes we take a tool because it’s the only tool we have in the toolbox box, and we use it because we have it.  But I see a significant opportunity as we look to the future to increase those tools and I think LCS fits very, very nicely into that toolbox.  Whether it’s fighting pirates in the Gulf of Aden or any of the other strategic straits that we have, there’s the opportunity to utilize these ships in a very important way and an effective way.

Certainly as I look at the three missions these ships were designed for—anti-submarine warfare, mine countermeasures, and anti-surface warfare—these ships fit very nicely.  So I think LCS is the right tool, for the right job, at the right time… at the right price.  The affordability of these ships, and the impact these ships will have when we bring them to the fleet certainly cannot be understated.  We’ve got some work to do, we understand we’ve got some work to do, and we are facing that head on with not only the LCS Council but here at N96 and in N95 too.  And we’ll keep working at it.  Thank you again for your time.

 

 

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