LCS: N80 Talks Affordable Programs, Accountable Navy

DSC_2645In this blog, Navy Live talks shipbuilding, cost, the need for affordability, the new littoral combat ship and accountability with the Navy’s new director of Programming (N80), Rear Adm. Barry L. Bruner.

Navy Live: Nice to have you back on the Navy Live blog. Please tell us about your new job and your focus.

Rear Adm. Bruner: Great to be back on Navy Live. In my last job as director of Undersea Warfare (N97), I spent a lot of time discussing the future of undersea warfare, but now I’m coming to you from a new position— director of Programming Division (N80), where I now take a look at funding for programs across our Navy to help build a responsible and well-prioritized budget.

Navy Live: In today’s fiscal environment there has been more and more discussion about the need for programs to be “more affordable” and “cost efficient.” What does that mean to you and for the Navy?

Rear Adm. Bruner: As the public and policy makers debate the merits of various defense and non-defense programs over the coming years, we must not lose sight of affordability as one of the most important bounding factors when deciding what and how much to buy for our future Navy. As part of preparing for my new job at N80, I read a number of articles and books focused on reducing costs– one of them, Why Has the Cost of Navy Ships Risen (Published by Rand, 2006. Authors: Mark Arena, Irv Blickstein, Obaid Younossi and Clifford Grammich) offered a number of recommendations to reduce ship costs, among them:

    1. that ships should be designed and built as the vehicle, the bus that is used to transport the payload,
    2. that they should also be designed to be less complex whenever possible,
    3. that the Navy should build a mix of mission focused and multi-mission ships.

This clearly lays out the path to design and build a ship like LCS – which fills all three recommendations above.

The littoral combat ship USS Freedom (LCS 1) gets underway as the guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) prepares for the at-sea phase of Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) Singapore 2013.

The littoral combat ship USS Freedom (LCS 1) gets underway as the guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) prepares for the at-sea phase of Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) Singapore 2013.

 

Navy Live: There has been lots of discussion about the littoral combat ship — from a programming and cost standpoint. Can you share your thoughts?

Rear Adm. Bruner:  As we have the healthy debate about LCS’s performance and costs, it is important to realize (and to remind ourselves) that the ship design broke new ground. For the first time in decades the Navy decided to build a ship that was not meant to do everything, in all situations. Rather LCS was designed to be flexible, using modular techniques, to allow our Navy to build a multi-mission ship in an affordable way well into the future.

Navy Live: Has the Navy been transparent enough—held itself accountable when it finds issues with LCS?

Rear Adm. Bruner: There are few organizations that are better at transparency and self-assessment than our Navy. We critique ourselves honestly, so that we can determine what needs to be fixed – and then we go fix those issues. We hold our leaders accountable: when a commanding officer fails in command, we remove him or her. And we would have it no other way. That is a big part of what makes our Navy the great institution it is, our insistence on accountability.

LCS is being treated just as it should be. We should expect some issues with a radical new design ship class. The LCS program is absolutely making progress – and it is still early in the program’s life. We need to keep working on it. Ultimately, what we will have is a flexible, modular and affordable ship.

The littoral combat ship USS Independence (LCS 2) demonstrates its maneuvering capabilities in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of San Diego.

The littoral combat ship USS Independence (LCS 2) demonstrates its maneuvering capabilities in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of San Diego.

 

Navy Live: How would you explain our approach to building new ships affordably – while continuing to incorporate fleet lessons learned?

Rear Adm. Bruner:  Our approach has been fairly simple: build the best ship you can, test it, assess it, improve on it. Build the best ship you can, etc. As for fleet lessons learned, we need to continue to actively address those issues through testing and review – and then we should fix them, just as we are doing now.