Only One Ship
The Navy’s new littoral combat ship (LCS) is the poster child for everything wrong with Navy shipbuilding, from GovExec:
When Rep. Gene Taylor, chairman of the House Armed Services Seapower and Expeditionary Forces Subcommittee, talks about the Littoral Combat Ship, you almost expect to see steam come out of his ears. “To call the LCS troubled would be an understatement,” the Mississippi Democrat says. The program was conceived in 2002 to deliver a high-speed, easily maneuverable ship that could perform a range of missions in coastal areas, giving the Navy an edge on what strategists believe are the most likely future maritime battlegrounds.”A look at the plan from just two years ago [shows] we should by now have at least four ships delivered, three more nearing completion from a fiscal year 2008 authorization, six more under contract from a fiscal year 2009 authorization, and today we should be discussing the authorization of six more ships for fiscal year 2010,” Taylor lectured two senior admirals during a March 10 hearing.”The fact of the matter is that this program has so far delivered one ship – one ship,” a frustrated Taylor repeated.
Specifically, here is what went wrong:
Lockheed Martin, with little shipbuilding experience, got the first contract and began work at the Marinette Marine shipyard on the Menominee River in Wisconsin. There were a number of problems from the outset. First, in an effort to save time, the Navy and contractors decided to begin construction of the lead ship before the design was complete, a decision that would prove fatal to both schedule and cost commitments.As contractors were adapting a commercial design for military use, the service was overhauling its shipbuilding codes, establishing rules that essentially would preclude the use of most commercial standards for warships. What’s more, the Navy exercised little oversight at the shipyard. A decade of outsourcing had decimated the service’s in-house engineering and acquisition workforce. By the time Lockheed delivered the first ship in September 2008, the cost had more than doubled.General Dynamics encountered similar problems building the second ship in Alabama, for which the Navy expects to take delivery this summer. In both cases, design changes during construction racked up enormous costs.
Basically the same story with every new warship design under construction, changes made after the contract has been signed and building begun. Not to sound as frustrated as Rep. Taylor, but they will do it again, and again, and again…
Numbers mean everything for small escort type warships, and decades-long procurement policies, especially in wartime when equipment becomes obsolete very quickly, can no longer be tolerated.