By Christopher P. Cavas - Staff writer Nov 3, 2010
Rival teams from Lockheed Martin and Austal USA have been waiting all year to see which of their designs would be chosen for the Navy’s littoral combat ship competition. Now, if the Navy gets permission from the lame-duck Congress, the winner could be both...
Thursday, November 4, 2010
...The new plan to build 10 of each hull type is said to come as an opportunity. Apparently the competition has produced favorable contract prices from both contractors, and as such it is either cost neutral, or potentially cost saving, to buy 20 ships under these two contracts over the entire Five-Year plan instead of 19 under the old plan.
There are a few hurdles to the new plan though.
In order to go with the new plan, the Navy needs Senate and Congressional approval to change the acquisition strategy. There are already statements up on both Alabama Senator websites, Senator Shelby and Senator Sessions. As a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator Sessions appears to have spoken to Ray Mabus about this plan on Wednesday morning and filled in on the details, because the statement implies he has thrown his full support into the plan. Senator Shelby has yet to learn the details, and finishes his statement by having concerns he hopes to work out with the Navy as he learns more details. Neither Senator Kohl nor Senator-elect Johnson has posted a statement on this news.
Both shipyards would have to agree to the new plan, and it appears pretty obvious both would do it happily. On just the details as reported in the press, Austal shares soared up 20% and trading had to be halted. Fox11 in Wisconsin quoted Richard McCreary, the President and CEO of Marinette Marine, the deal "would be a very positive event." I also thought is was noteworthy that Tim Colton, a highly respected shipbuilding consultant well known for his very clever commentary on Navy shipbuilding responded tonight by saying "Amazing, and somewhat hard to believe!"
I agree with Tim Colton that this is very hard to believe, particularly when I started looking at the details of the plan. This plan clearly comes from somewhere, and I believe it comes from way up the civilian chain of command - and by that I mean it almost certainly comes directly from the White House. There is way too much industrial and political consideration in this acquisition strategy for it not to be politically driven, which suggests to me this approach represents the Obama administrations shipbuilding jobs program. Only by accepting it as an Obama administration jobs program can you explain the enormous and obvious flaw in the plan.
The Big Flaw
My primary problem with the new acquisition strategy is how the plan to build both ships does not address the problem of each ship class having a unique combat system. Prior to the Milestone B review, the Navy told Inside the Navy (subscription only):
The Navy will draw up total life-cycle cost estimates for both the Lockheed Martin and General Dynamics versions of the Littoral Combat Ship before the program goes before the Defense Acquisition Board this year for its Milestone B. review.In the September 16, 2009 statement that announced the downselect acquisition strategy, the Navy stated the plan "reduces program ownership costs, and meets the spirit and intent of the Weapons System Acquisition Reform Act of 2009." With each class having unique combat systems, this statement is no longer accurate. By building both designs but not choosing a single combat system, the Littoral Combat Ship program builds a dozen orphan ships rather than just two for some future CNO, SECDEF, etc... to retire, sell, or sink early as a cost savings measure.
The service included the announcement in a response to a Government Accountability Office report that criticized LCS life-cycle estimates.
The qualification standard for a "hybrid sailor" is higher on the Littoral Combat Ship than on other vessels in the Navy, and the qualifications necessary for one combat system has nothing in common with the other combat system - meaning if the Navy buys both - "hybrid sailors" are not interchangeable among the two classes of Littoral Combat Ship without undertaking a new set of extensive (and expensive) qualifications. Building both hulls with different combat systems will cost the Navy a lot more in the long run than choosing a single combat system in a competition, and spending a little bit of money up front to standardize the combat system on both ships.
The Navy can afford to do this, because there is a dirty secret here that must be addressed anyway. You know that 30mm gun for the surface warfare mission module? Word in the CIC is that it does not work for either combat system right now on either ship, in fact it may not work well with the combat system on the LPDs either, as we discussed the other day. In order to integrate new weapon systems into the Littoral Combat Ship, for each new system extensive work will be required to insure the new system works with both of the combat systems. It will not take long before the Navy spends more money maintaining and integrating new technologies into both combat systems among 2 fleets of 12 ships than it would cost if the Navy just bit the bullet now and selected a single combat system for both ships.
Selecting a single combat system would still allow the Navy to proceed under the plan to build 10 copies of both versions of the ship, although the Navy would probably be forced to get out bids for a new contract to one of the shipbuilders. If the Navy was to select, for example, the AIS combat system from General Dynamics for both hulls, the Navy could then proceed by building the 2 ships in FY2010 and 2 ships in FY2011 as Austal versions while the combat system on the Lockheed Martin version of the ship was converted to the AIS system. With an Austal build rate of 2/2/2/2/1/1 over the next 5 years, the Navy would begin funding the Lockheed Martin version of the ship with Marinette in FY 2012 under a 2/2/3/3 acquisition plan. Such a plan would allow the Navy to build at the same rate 2/2/4/4/4/4 between FY10 - FY15 as under the new plan, but would standardize the combat system.
Failure to standardize the combat system will result in early retirements of one class of Littoral Combat Ships, because it will cost too much before the end of one of the ships hull life to maintain both classes, and some future DoD/Navy leader absolutely will retire ships early to save costs - that's a fact. How do we know? Because the expense of maintaining unique, uncommon systems on ships is the same criteria ADM Roughead and other Navy leaders have used to retire ships over the last decade!...
Wednesday, November 03, 2010
Posted by CDR Salamander
The long-awaited decision on which competitor will win the Navy’s littoral combat ship competition is expected to be revealed Wednesday afternoon, and the answer will surprise most people.Really? Really?
The winner? Both teams.
Sources said the Navy, rather than selecting one team to build 10 ships, will instead award construction contracts to both Lockheed Martin and Austal USA to build 10 of their ships, for a total of 20 new LCS hulls.
One source said the ships will continue to be built with separate combat systems, rather than go through a time-consuming effort to install a common system on all the ships.
I don't want to hear any more from these people about configuration control, systems commonality or gains from economies of scale. I don't want to hear them tell one more Commanding Officer that he needs to make hard choices.
LCS - a dog's breakfast of intellectual fail from CONOPS through production. Almost as bad as sending an XO to Court Martial for failing to implement something that doesn't exist.
If this pans out - it is only one thing; full-spectrum systemic fail.