Home » Budget Industry » Stackley Defends LCS-To-Frigate Transition Plan During Contentious Hearing


Stackley Defends LCS-To-Frigate Transition Plan During Contentious Hearing

Navy's top acquisition official Sean Stackley testifies before the HASC on March, 23 2016. CSPAN Image

Navy’s top acquisition official Sean Stackley testifies before the HASC on March, 23 2016. CSPAN Image

The Navy defended its plan to move heel-to-toe from its Littoral Combat Ship into the LCS-based frigate program despite a Government Accountability Office report released today that suggested the frigate program could be slowed to await more details about the frigate’s design and cost.

The author of the GAO report, Michele Mackin, in her testimony to the House Armed Services oversight subcommittee today in a hearing on the LCS program leveled a range of criticisms at the ship class – five major but unrelated engineering casualties over the last year, concerns about the Navy paying for repairs that stemmed from flaws in ship design or construction, uncertainty about the cost of the frigate upgrade, talk about awarding a block buy contract for frigates before the new ship’s capability is proven, among them.

In sum, Mackin said, the Navy should slow down its transition to the frigate.

“Our work has shown that both LCS shipyards are running quite a bit behind in delivering ships already under contract. Backlogs are many months long and up to a year or more in some cases. So the bottom line here is that both shipyards will be building LCSs for years to come, at least into 2021 at this point. So there’s no schedule imperative to add frigates to the pipeline right now,” she said.
“There’s an opportunity here to not repeat the mistakes of the past. Continued concerns about the capability of LCS, testing that’s years away from being complete, unknowns about the frigate and production backlogs at the shipyards are all factors that need to be taken into account. This potentially $9-billion investment can wait until more is known about what the taxpayers are being asked to fund.”

After a contentious hearing – the second in two weeks – Navy acquisition chief Sean Stackley told USNI News that the service could not delay its frigate upgrade plans without interrupting continuous production, which would lead to laying off skilled workers at the yards and risking higher cost and poorer quality.

“If the shipyard doesn’t have a backlog, it’s out of business,” he said, adding that the GAO report’s language about shipyard backlogs shows “a misunderstanding of serial production.”

“Her comment in terms of the timeframe is that when you award the last ships in 2017 … you still have work to take you to the 2020, 2021 timeframe. Well that’s true, because you’re going to order material and then you’re going to build the ship,” Stackley said.
“What that means is, the day you award that last ship, you’re going to start laying people off, and you’re going to lay them off until they’re gone. You’re going to lay them off in the sequence in which you build the ship. So when you are going to build another ship, if you are going to stop production and build another ship, you’ve lost your skilled labor and you’ve got to rebuild it. Where that has occurred [in previous shipbuilding programs] we have experienced extreme cost delays and quality issues. So that is something that we as a Navy, we as a nation do not choose to do. We do not want to lay off skilled labor and then try to rehire them a couple years later to restart production.”

Asked to confirm that frigate procurement needed to begin heel-to-toe as LCS procurement ends, Stackley replied, “unless you want to put the shipyard out of business.”

Littoral combat ship USS Coronado (LCS 4) patrols the Pacific Ocean during flight operations in the 7th Fleet area of operation on Oct. 6, 2016. US Navy photo.

Littoral combat ship USS Coronado (LCS 4) patrols the Pacific Ocean during flight operations in the 7th Fleet area of operation on Oct. 6, 2016. US Navy photo.

During the hearing, Mackin and oversight subcommittee ranking member Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) questioned whether an LCS-based frigate was even the right concept the service’s next iteration of a small surface combatant.

“If we’re now taking the LCS and turning it into a frigate, wouldn’t we be better served to design a frigate that meets what our needs are?” the congresswoman said.
“We always had problems with the LCS because we’re bumping up against weight restrictions, we always had problems with the fact that there’s not adequate crew on the ship, and we have a hull that’s made out of aluminum that gets pierced easily and has been damaged in a number of settings. It seems to me that maybe we should go back to the drawing board and build a frigate that we want as opposed to superimposing it on an LCS frame that appears to have many problems.”

Stackley replied that the Navy spent a year in 2014 conducting an analysis of alternatives to answer that very question.

“We worked with the fleet, we worked across the design community, we worked with the Joint Staff, we worked with the CNO (chief of naval operations’) staff and we reviewed existing designs – U.S. and foreign – frigate designs, as well as considered a clean sheet,” he said.
“We reviewed all the alternatives, looked at the range of capabilities, the fleet weighed in in terms of their priorities in terms of the capabilities, had to consider the missions that the ship would perform in and had to consider things like cost and maturity and risk. And out of all of that, in that review that was conducted with OSD (the Office of the Secretary of Defense), with the Joint Staff, we invited review by committee staffs as well – out of all of that we landed on … the modified LCS using the existing [anti-submarine warfare] and surface warfare capabilities we have.”

When Speier asked Mackin to weigh in, though, the GAO representative said the AoA was conducted in a “limited time” and that “the minor modified LCS, which is now the frigate, was the least capable option that the study team assessed and did not meet all the fleet’s needs. Cost was a big driver in deciding to go with the minor modified LCS, but another big driver was that they did not want to disrupt the workload to existing LCS shipyards, so that was also a factor in addition to cost.”

“I would not agree with that, for the record, ma’am,” Stackley jumped in. “For the record, the disruption to the shipbuilders, that is important. But the decision-makers in that included the CNO, first and foremost. The CNO, first and foremost, is less concerned about the disruption to the shipyards and more concerned about bringing capability to the fleet. And that was the priority that he placed in terms of the ultimate recommendation that went forward.”

Speier retorted, “Mr. Stackley, I do not want to engage in a discussion on this right now.” She said her priority is to ensure “we are not providing sweetheart deals to the shipbuilders for not providing us ships at the outset that are capable of doing the job that we contracted for.”

The future USS Detroit (LCS 7) conducts acceptance trials on July 14, 2016. Lockheed Martin Photo

The future USS Detroit (LCS 7) conducts acceptance trials on July 14, 2016. Lockheed Martin Photo

Additionally, the congresswoman and the GAO director of acquisition and sourcing management slammed the Navy for the number of major engineering casualties over the past year and the fact that the Navy had to pay some of the bill for repairs they say the shipbuilder should have paid.

During the hearing, Stackley explained the five engineering casualties in detail, noting that two were crew errors, two were deficiencies in ship construction and repair, and one was due to ship design.

“The Navy has conducted formal engineering reviews and command investigations to assess the root causes, and corrective action for each of these casualties are in action,” he said. In the case of the design issue, “a deficiency in the new propulsion gear on the Freedom variant resulted in the gear’s clutch failure. The shipbuilder has been responsive with the manufacturer to correct the design, and we are currently testing this correction. The shipbuilder and manufacturer are being held accountable for these corrective actions.” Where the shipyard was responsible for construction and repair deficiencies, the yard and the Navy worked together to improve procedures to avoid future engineering casualties.

“Across the board we are raising the level of engineering and design discipline on this new ship class, that of zero tolerance for departure from standards,” Stackley said in his opening remarks.
“In this vein, the Naval Sea Systems Command has initiated a comprehensive engineering review of LCS propulsion systems and will make their findings available to this subcommittee upon their completion.”

Stackley told reporters after the hearing that he stands by the Navy’s contracting setup and the warranty clauses within the ship construction contracts. For the LCS program, the Navy uses a “fixed price incentive” contract structure that includes a target cost that the contractor is guaranteed to be paid; a shareline, where costs above the target are split between the Navy and the contractor; and a ceiling, above which any costs are shouldered solely by the contractor. Stackley said the LCSs have a one-year warranty period, and any problems that arise during that time that are the shipbuilder’s liability are paid for either on the shareline or by the contractor if it pushes the total ship cost above the ceiling.

During the hearing, Mackin took issue with the fact that the Navy in effect could be paying for some of the repairs resulting from shipbuilder deficiencies, whereas the Coast Guard uses a contract structure that makes the shipbuilder pay for any repairs during the warranty period. Stackley told reporters afterwards that the Coast Guard uses a “firm fixed price” contract setup that costs more upfront but puts all the responsibility for warranty period repairs on the shipbuilder.

“We’ve reviewed this over and over again with OSD and with other organizations trying to drive down cost for the government, trying to properly incentivize things like quality and performance, and at the same time deliver capability in the most affordable manner,” Stackley said, insisting that the current LCS contract structure is the fairest setup for a ship class in serial production.

  • Corporatski Kittenbot 2.0

    It is mentioned later wrt survivability (1hr 7m) that when engaged against “Very modest threats” the LCS is intended to depart the area of combat in an ‘orderly fashion….. not fight.
    – If attacked by “more stressing threats” the LCS are required to do an “orderly abandon ship”……

    So…. in essence, no matter what the threat encountered, the ship is required to run away or to abandon ship altogether.

    And that Stackley fellow gets chewed up a bit by the rather unimpressed politicians doing the questioning.

    • Lazarus

      Secretary Stackley doesn’t get chewed up by anyone. LCS is as survivable as the Perry class frigates it replaces.

      • the_artist_formerly_known_as_m

        He looked and sounded pretty foolish at the SASC and HASC hearings.

        GAO, DOT&E, SASC and Rep Spiereer ate him for lunch.

        • Lazarus

          I disagree. The agencies have a semi-annual LCS complaint fest and then the legislators vote funds for the ships continued construction.

          • the_artist_formerly_known_as_m

            Except in 2008-09 when the program was at a complete stop. And when OSD curtailed the program a year ago from 52 to 40 ships.

            And now we’re seeing a very public and embarrassing confluence of problems. Right around a change of administration. This could be significant.

          • Lazarus

            The program was paused from 2007-2009 on Navy initiative in response to a Congressional cost cap that was rightly imposed on a program that was then out of control. LCS has remained within Congressional cost caps since 2011, making the “it was supposed to be $220m” a hollow cry at best.

            As much of the media has suggested it will employ “knee jerk decisions,” I suspect that the new admin will tread very carefully when it comes to what programs it cuts. OSD curtailed the program in order to fund its third offset process and some advanced weapons. That was OSD initiated and not Congressional.

          • the_artist_formerly_known_as_m

            Gen Mattis has not been known to tread lightly.

            I predict this program will still be a goat’s breakfast in 6-9 months – if not worse.

          • Lazarus

            And I will remind you in 6-9 months that you were wrong.

          • the_artist_formerly_known_as_m

            … based on assertions vice facts.

          • Lazarus

            No, based on results. The LCS program will continue and the LCS frigate variant will be selected.

          • the_artist_formerly_known_as_m

            Yup. Just like we were going to buy 52 LCS. Until we weren’t.

          • Lazarus

            The US may still end up purchasing 52 LCS and LCS frigates. The decision to cut was Secretary Carter’s and he is leaving. LCS opponents in the SASC won’t be around forever as well.

          • the_artist_formerly_known_as_m

            I doubt it. There is far too much baggage associated with this program.

          • Lazarus

            We’ll see

          • PolicyWonk

            Laz is probably right: this corporate welfare program and blatant defrauding of the taxpayers will likely continue regardless of the staggering costs, broken promises, consistent failures, and notorious unreliability of both sea-frames.

            To even *consider* building a frigate on a program/concept with a record as bad as this ones takes a lot of chutzpah.

          • Rick

            So what do you know which NOBODY else does?

          • Curtis Conway

            The politicians are voting for jobs, not combat capability. It’s an economic argument, and has nothing to do with combat capability.

        • PolicyWonk

          Note, that even the navy’s own inspector general declared that neither variant of LCS is “likely to survive the missions commanders would assign it…”.

          Laz summarily dismisses the navy’s IG, too…

      • the_artist_formerly_known_as_m

        “LCS is as survivable as the Perry class frigates it replaces.”

        ***********************************

        Laz. I doubt even Navy would stand by that assertion. LCS and OHP were by the Navy’s own admission designed to very different standards.

        OHP was built to Level 2. Moderate survivability. Ability to sustain operations in a battle group during a conflict.

        LCS is required to be Level 1+. Low survivability plus some tailored features including underwater shock, bullet fragmentation resistance and improved flooding control.

        So are you basically saying an LCS can meet Level 2 survivability? If so – I’m going to have to ask you to provide your sources.

        • Lazarus

          Survivability is composed of three elements; susceptibility, vulnerability and recoverability. LCS was designed to replace the post-2003 FFG which was considerably more susceptible and vulnerable than it condition as built. I agree that in terms of overall survivability the LCS is not the equal of the pre-2003 FFG 7, but was never intended to reach that level. It has no area AAW capability, and lacks many of the sensors that the FFG’s had as built.

          • the_artist_formerly_known_as_m

            Got it. Zero evidence. Just hopes.

            LCS is significantly more vulnerable and susceptible than FFG. That was all the Navy required.

          • Lazarus

            I said that I agreed that the LCS was not as survivable as the pre-2003 FFG. What is your point? I agreed. I was comparing the post-2003 Perry’s largely shorn of their AAW and ASUW weapons and sensor suite as comparable in survivability to the LCS. Can’t you be a gracious winner?

          • the_artist_formerly_known_as_m

            It’s not about winning or losing. It’s about facts. You continue to spin them to suit your agenda.

            Can you at least try being the tiniest bit objective in this subject? For your own sake.

          • Lazarus

            I disagree that LCS is “significantly more vulnerable and susceptible” than the FFG. I agree that it is less recoverable.

            You also have an agenda of discrediting LCS or you would not perpetually appear to contradict whatever I have to say.

            DId you give up on your own independent effort to oppose LCS after your ID posting?

          • the_artist_formerly_known_as_m

            Not all of us have the freedom to write what we want… particularly when it comes to this program.

            My effort was not an opposition to LCS. It was an attempt to have a fact-based discussion on the ship we are actually getting

            Facts are interesting things. You should try using them sometime.

          • Lazarus

            I doubt NAVAIR cares if you criticize LCS. My LCS articles are based on facts.

          • the_artist_formerly_known_as_m

            I’ll admit there are some facts in your articles. There are also lots of fairy-dust and overly optimistic predictions.

            And as I’ve stated before – you seem pathologically incapable of distinguishing the “LCS you hope we’ll get” from the “LCS we actually have”.

          • Curtis Conway

            Do you remember when the LCS Program office, and the Navy in general, were espousing that the LCS had been built with Aviation-centric qualities in mind (justifying the speed aspect of the design)? They wholly forgot that a 2D combat environment is completely different than a 3D combat environment. Targeting of something going two digit knots is infinitely easier than targeting something going three digit or greater knots, and trading altitude for energy, and hiding in the weeds and topography. There is little topography on the ocean. NOW, Laz wants to attack NAVAIR credentials? LOL!

          • the_artist_formerly_known_as_m

            Laz dramatically and consistently overstates the tactical and operational importance of speed in LCS.

            Pur simply: you cannot outrun a modern ISR network. There is scant difference for say a P-8 (400 kts) in finding a ship going 30 vs. 45 knots.

            High speed arguably makes LCS easier to detect and classify. Not too many things other than LCS go 45+ knots and leave a miles long wake. I’d imagine she is also very acoustically detectable at that speed.

            Laz also understates what high speed “cost” the LCS program. Both in terms of dollars and performance. Endurance, payload, reliability (complex engine) and survivability were all sacrificed to achieve 45+ knots speed.

          • Curtis Conway

            AMEN and AMEN, you are right on target. I had one person trying to tell me that our adversaries did not have capable national assets. I showed him the 1 meter square aircraft door the Chinese provided, and he said “So what”. I hope our fleet has the weapons to defend themselves, and in the LCS’s case, it does not, and its by design. This is a travesty and a near crime. The proliferation of Ballistic Missiles and ASCMs makes this an eventuality, and anyone who tells you otherwise are on a River in Egypt. I think Laz has a recliner on that barge.

          • Curtis Conway

            The OHP’s were neutered of their AAW/ASUW capability when the world was a much different place. The world is returning to ‘that place’ and the OHPs are gone, and the replacement looks like the neutered OHP. Is this sound planning for the future? Sound like ‘planning to fail’ to me, and all driven by budget, not realistic capability requirements that recognize reality in the modern battle space. In the end analysis, it dishonors the sailors who were handed this bill of goods that could not deliver in the first place, and will be swimming if they survive the inevitable attack based upon their location (proximity to the beach). It’s as if the US Navy ignored the existence of land based ASCMs entirely. That recent shoot down had better be a reliable and repeatable ‘soft-kill’, or the US Navy is culpable in the loss of sailors in the future. One has to really watch out for those who will readily gamble with other peoples lives.

        • PolicyWonk

          Unfortunately, according to an article released on Defense Industry Daily several months ago, no version of LCS (present or future) will ever meet even the navy’s level-1 standard.

      • Pat Patterson

        Seriously doubt that.

  • the_artist_formerly_known_as_m

    Even a Democrat congressman with no military experience recognizes this ship won’t make a frigate.

    The whole thing simply doesn’t pass the giggle test. I would expect big changes come January. This program is ripe for Mattis to cancel or truncate.

    • Lazarus

      Mattis will need a year to familiarize himself with the Pentagon bureaucracy before making any big decisions. Who knows, maybe he will fire Dr Gilmore instead!

      • the_artist_formerly_known_as_m

        Waiting a year to do anything doesn’t strike me as Mattis’s style.

        Dr. Gilmore will likely stay. He has proven his worth time and again in keeping Service’s honest.

        But I certainly wouldn’t expect Sean Stackley to stick around. His reputation on this issue is shot.

        • Lazarus

          Dr. Gilmore is an Obama appointee and may go. Secretary Stackley’s reputation is in fact very good. The GAO report is full of misleading data and outright false statements such as the persistent claim that LCS is overweight. LCS manages growth over the ship’s life within the mission module weight rather than the ship’s. Secretary Stackley is also correct in saying that GAO does not understand how serial production works. The fact that the only negative comments come from jackie Speier, a far left congresswoman whose only concern is siphoning defense dollars off for social programs is in fact reassuring. It appears the rest of the committee was not so inclined to negative comments. Ms. Speier hates most defense programs, so her comments are to be expected. Ms Mackin is merely a GAO spokesperson and has no experience in shipbuilding or naval issues.

          • sid

            And Sec. Stackley -OPENLY- admitted in from the SASC on Dec 1, the USN -INTENTIONALLY- mislead the Committee about LCS costs.

            So, its a darned good thing that GAO and DOT&E are acting like the honest adults in the room when LCS is discussed.

          • Lazarus

            GAO and DOT&E are political entities as much as any other govt. organizations, Stackley did not say the Navy mislead Congress about LCS costs. Stop putting out false information!

          • sid

            Watch the CSPAN footage …

            He does plain as a traffic jam.

            Will link when able.

          • Lazarus

            The SASC needs to bring back CNO Clark as he was the author of the $220m figure.

          • the_artist_formerly_known_as_m

            Passing the buck doesn’t remove the issue.

          • Lazarus

            ADM Clark and his OPNAV staff were the ones who came up with the $220m figure for the sea frame. Secretary Stackley and VADM Rowden were not associated with that number. If the SASC wants to “hold someone accountable” for the $220m figure, they should bring back ADM Clark for testimony.

          • sid

            can’t link the actual video…

            Go to C SPAN and looks up SASC LCS Dec. 1…

            John S. McCain III
            And, Doctor, that’s why some of us express such extreme frustration Because we’re only as good as the information we receive as that the LCS would cost $220 million per ship, which now Secretary Stackley says, well that was absolutely wrong. Nobody said it was wrongt $220 million per ship, which now Secretary Stackley says, well that was absolutely wrong. Nobody said it was wrong at the time, everybody said it was right.

            STACKLEY: I’d have to go back to the records to see who testified. That number was directed from the top down,

          • sid

            SeC Stackley:
            Sir, I agree. This Congress was led to believe that the ship would cost $220 million, that was an unrealistic number that was put before the Congress in terms of a program to authorizeerms of a program to authorize and appropriate. The result of the lead ship going to $500 million to $700 million each, that was.

          • Lazarus

            No. The first two LCS cost $700m. Congress rightly put a cost cap on the program and the Navy cancelled 4 LCS and completed a complete program restructure. The LCS has remained under the Congressional cost cap (that yes, is adjustable for inflation) since 2011.

          • SAS

            You, and now Wilkinak seem to have a special interest in DOTE and Gilmore – wllkinak claims some special knowledge that everyone should trust, and you just keep repeating that they’re political entities. If you don’t like the results of the testing, why do you blame DOTE and Gilmore? The tests he’s reporting about are actually designed and run by the Navy itself. Are you against test, or against independence from the military departments, or just against anyone who makes any kind of negative statement about the LCS, no matter how well supported by testing or analysis?

            I mean, let’s face it, if the military departments could be trusted to conduct that testing and report it accurately without an independent report, DOTE wouldn’t even exist, right? It’s not as if DOTE established itself – Congress made DOTE over the objections of the military departments.

            It’s a free country, so you can just continue the ad hominem attacks to your hearts content, but you should understand that to anyone even moderately educated and experienced with policy, it undermines your credibility. If your objective is to make compelling assertions, you’d be much better served by sticking to facts with references (even to your own work, so long as it isn’t just more unsupported assertions) than you are by continuing to dismiss the “political actors.” From here, you seem like the political actor, or are you just taking Admiral Fanta’s call to defend LCS to heart?.

          • Lazarus

            Let me be more clear; Dr. Gilmore’s interpretations of the LCS tests are troublesome. Under his conditions, every ship would need an AEGIS level of capability to meet “survivability” standards.

            If you need a specific instance of DOT&E mistake, I cite the flawed operational range test of LCS 3 that failed to take into account that ship’s lack of a compensated fuel oil system and associated trim control of the ship’s displacement over the course of the test. LCS-3 achieved significantly greater operational ranges while deployed without any significant equipment changes.

          • SAS

            “Under his conditions…”? Laz, who establishes ship survivability standards and requirements? Dr. Gilmore is saying that based upon Navy data from the Navy test, the Navy ship didn’t meet Navy-prescribed survivability standards for LCS. The Navy says its a combatant ship that has to operate independently in an area that, according to DOD AND the Navy, has certain threats. Navy data from the Navy test of the Navy ship indicates the Navy ship can’t survive those threats. Which part was Gilmore responsible for? Only saying “here’s what the test data show.” You don’t like the answer, so you criticize the speaker, but it doesn’t change the answer.

            And, regarding your “specific instance of DOT&E mistake”- you are citing your own assertion, without data. What would be the difference between your action and me saying here that the LCS can be sunk by three well-placed hits from a .22LR pistol, then posting somewhere else that “since the LCS can be sunk by pistol fire?” Please post a link to whatever data you base your assertion on, or at least some credible basis. What you’ve done so far is to speculate about a flawed conclusion from the professional testers who show all their work without showing even a single data point of your own.

          • leesea

            I agree and what some folks are missing, is OT&E is conducted using predetermined metrics from the program rqmts documents, not based on subjective “should have been” post-contract desires/opinions.
            P.S. been a test director.

          • Lazarus

            Aren’t you effectively conducting an ad hominem attack on the services’ leadership by suggesting they cannot be “trusted” to conduct operational testing? Are you attacking RADM Fanta as well? Seems like you have your own agenda of defending DOT&E.

          • SAS

            No – “ad hominem” is literally “to the person” as opposed to “to the position.” You’re against “Gilmore;” I’m against nobody, but Congress decided the military services (not an individual, but the organizations themselves) couldn’t be trusted, not me.

            Furthermore, how EXACTLY is asking if you’re taking RADM Fanta’s call to SWOs to “defend LCS” an attack of any kind? Did I in any way question his legitimacy, professionalism, expertise, or integrity? Did I criticize either his person (which would be ad hominem) or his actions? I was asking if YOU were taking his call to action to heart. Now that you mention it, though, if a leader has to tell the troops to “sell” a story, you probably have a problem.

            Pointing out the bias of your frequent ad hominem attacks and dismissal of the independent tester’s critiques of LCS isn’t an “agenda of defending DOT&E,” any more than it would be an “agenda” to point out your bias if you were dismissing the weather channel’s wind speed observations and forecast for winds because they were a “bunch of PhDs” with no sailing experience.

            Lastly, I notice you don’t even address the questions posed, you just made a warrantless attempt to flip the assertion (of ad hominem attack). Let me restate and enumerate, to make it obvious that you are avoiding the answers.

            1. “If you don’t like the results of the testing, why do you blame DOTE and Gilmore?”
            (The tests he’s reporting about are actually designed and run by the Navy itself.)

            2. “Are you against test, or against independence from the military departments, or just against anyone who makes any kind of negative statement about the LCS, no matter how well supported by testing or analysis?”

          • wilkinak

            DOT&E is not as pure as the driven snow. Trust me on that.

          • PolicyWonk

            Maybe not. But the navy’s inspector general, DOT&E, OMB, and all US allies initially interested in the project (and since walked away citing poor ROI) all agree, that LCS is a poor investment.

          • Rick

            Truth on Stackley putting it mildly: He absolutely lied about the LCS shipbuilders responsibility vis a vis “warranty”.”http://breakingdefense.com/2016/12/lcs-frigate-block-buy-battle-should-navy-buy-upgraded-ships-wholesale/ ““Mr. Stackley, I am so disappointed in your testimony, I can’t begin to tell you,” was the first thing she said to him in the hearing, saying his statement that the contractors properly warrantied their work on LCS “was very deceptive.””

          • Rick

            And here again Stackley deceives: ” pulling into port every 4-6 weeks for a week-long preventative maintenance availability.” See history here: http://www.uscarriers.net/lcs3history.htm

          • wilkinak

            GAO parrots Gilmore. Period. The folks at GAO are unfamiliar with ships, shipbuilding and ship operations. They don’t understand what they are critiquing and fall back on DOT&E to write their reports. DOT&E has it’s own rice bowl, just as USN does.

          • the_artist_formerly_known_as_m

            There were quite a few negative comments on LCS program from Republicans on the SASC only a few days earlier. This is not a GOP-DEM issue. There is widespread questioning from both sides of the aisle.

            Personally – I have nothing against Mr. Stackley, but his case for entering serial production was extremely weak. And it showed.

            I understand a bit how serial production is supposed to work. I’ve seen it work successfully in P-8A program. And to recommend entering serial production for LCS when you have so many unknowns on capability and reliability simply does not pass “the giggle test”.

          • Lazarus

            Senators McCain and Graham are well know LCS opponents so their comments are not surprising. The case for entering serial production is about preserving the shipyards and the associated industrial base. The Navy needs 12 frigates. It expects to spend a specific amount on each. The yard needs to know how many ships will be built in order to begin the expensive process of standing up the trades needed to construct the ship. Starting, then stopping, and trying to start construction again leads to extra costs such as those seen in standing up the DDG 51 line to build the Flight III.

            The frigate’s characteristics are not at issue here. US defense shipbuilders are dependent on govt. contracts and need to know the requirements and get the funding needed to stand up the line and produce ships on price and on sked.

          • the_artist_formerly_known_as_m

            Perhaps you watched different hearings than I did. LCS capability and reliability (or lack thereof) were very much at issue.

            You don’t enter serial production with so much uncertainty. That is like day one of Acquisition 101.

          • Lazarus

            It is obvious that you do not understand the shipbuilding process. It is not the same as aircraft production, where US producers have plenty of civilian contracts that otherwise support their business.

          • the_artist_formerly_known_as_m

            I didn’t say it was…

            My point being that if you enter into serial production with an unstable design – you are very likely to face significant rework cost later.

            Costs which may very well outweigh what was “saved” on the serial buy. Particularly when the Navy limits its warrantee to 1 year on its new ships

          • Lazarus

            The LCS frigate design is not broken into spiral development flights and will be as mature a design as possible. The shipbuilding industry cannot afford to construct and test prototypes as does the aircraft industry.

          • the_artist_formerly_known_as_m

            Again… no one said anything about prototypes or aircraft production.

            It is about common sense. Understand what you are buying before you buy it.

          • Lazarus

            The LCS FF will be different from the original in that it will sacrifice speed for greater range and armament. Many would prefer a 21st century FFG 7 with a significant area AAW armament, but current budget restrictions and the cost of other programs really does not allow for such a ship. This ship will likely have a single crew and little or no modular space. It will be very conventional in comparison with LCS. This frigate and any follow-on SSC will have to remain relatively austere. The shipbuilder however needs a “heads up” as to what they will be producing and a serial production agreement allows them to prepare and execute on schedule.

          • the_artist_formerly_known_as_m

            I am not one who thinks we need a 21st century FFG-7.

            I was encouraged to read that the Navy is conducting an actual Capability Based Assessment on the Future Surface Combatant.

            As you may remember – that was exactly what I proposed in my Information Dissemination post well over a year ago.

            I also recall you opposed the idea…

          • leesea

            where did you see that?

          • leesea

            THE overiding goal for a shipyard is to have a good long order book. It is NOT about having specific production lines going continously.

      • wilkinak

        I doubt that he will have to fire Gilmore. Gilmore is an Obama appointee. It is customary for political appointees to tender their resignation when an administration changes.

  • The LCS is a Disaster and a POS. It needs to be canceled and I hope with the Incoming Trump Administration, they cancel the LCS and replace it with a Proven Frigate.

    • Lazarus

      At over $1b a copy? Probably not. Where will the money come from?

      • Yet Steve, the LCS is a POS and unproven in combat. Makes me wonder why we are spending money on unproven POS. I think when Trump takes the White house in Jan 20, I hope he cancel’s the POS LCS and go with a proven frigate design that WORKS.

        • Lazarus

          Few if any US warships have been “in combat” in the last 25 years, making it hard to say how proven or unproven any one ship class is. Even the AEGIS system comes in for criticism despite downing several cruise missiles recently off Yemen.

          • Yet, the POS LCS can’t survive combat, let alone an Anti-ship cruise missile attack.

          • Horn

            Most small surface combatants can’t survive hits from ASCMs.

          • the_artist_formerly_known_as_m

            Most can at least defend themselves. Verdict is still out on LCS – but according to DOT&E it does not look promising.

          • MarlineSpikeMate

            RAM > PHALANX

          • Horn

            It’d be smart to have both on ships. Phalanx can be used to hit drones and speedboats. But I agree, SeaRAM > Phalanx.

          • Curtis Conway

            So we just build throw away ships and write-off the crews? I hope your relatives serve on these ships.

          • Horn

            Wow, Curtis. I’m surprised you said that to me. And no, I’m not saying we should build throw-away ships. My comment was to the fact that an ASCM hit would disable most SSC, that is, remove it from combat. OHPs were designed to survive a hit anywhere but the magazines, but that hit would effectively take the ship out of action permanently. It might survive but would never be able to be repaired unless it’s a bow or stern shot. I keep seeing people on here talk about building SSCs to take a hit from an ASCM and continue fighting. We aren’t there yet technologically, or if we are, it’s not financially or physically possible on such a small displacement.

          • Curtis Conway

            My apologies. The LCS, and its design criteria for its supposed mission set, is an abomination. A multi-warfare capable frigate is needed. It may be expensive to build, but it will be able to handle most any task, as long as it does not take on a whole body fleet. If we design and build it correctly, we will fear only submarines.

          • Stephen

            Exocet vs Sheffield. They never saw it coming… Iran has several Silkworms emplaced in the Persian Gulf. Imagine losing a CVN in the Strait of Hormuz…

          • Pat Patterson

            Carriers are designed to take hits and survive.

          • Stephen

            2 Mk-48s amidships…

          • Pat Patterson

            Not necessarily. Think it would take more. We sank one of our OHP’s for a target exercise and it took a MK48, several Harpoons and guided bombs and other weapons to sink it and yet it took several hours for it to sink. Of course no fuel or ammo aboard but those hits still should have sunk fairly quickly. CV’s do have anti-torpedo countermeasures plus an attack sub in the TF.

          • Stephen

            An AIP Sub pre-positioned can deliver the disabling fish; you don’t need to sink it. Air-ops scream to a halt… Even worse, submarine mine emplacement could prove equally effective.

          • Curtis Conway

            The Russians and the Chinese have some very capable missiles with ‘Crowd Pleasing’ warheads that one can see for hundreds of miles. the plasma from the blase will do the trick. THEN, the atmosphere is ionized, and the enemy, who has planned on this eventuality will strike. What then? Only ‘Passive’, if it is still functioning after the EMP . . . and EO/IR (again, if it still functions, for that is what Blast Testing/EMP testing is all about) is all that you will have . . . other than bullets.

          • Lazarus

            They would have if they had been in a proper AAW threat posture. They were not and had no point defense weapon like SeaRAM (which LCS has) to defend them from ASCM attack.

          • PolicyWonk

            More than several….

          • Stephen

            Remember, the Cole was attacked by a runabout… I still think the USCG NSC makes more sense.

          • Lazarus

            The NSC is a 1980’s-style warship that does not accommodate modular or unmanned systems. Its helicopter facilities are much smaller than those of LCS and it has no welldeck to support unmanned surface/subsurface vehicle operations.

          • Curtis Conway

            Sure doesn’t sound like Blue Water operations to me, and what of the Arctic Operating Area, or anything in the extreme lattitudes? Special mission ship for just part of the planet, and only shallow water to boot?

          • Lazarus

            What would preclude LCS/FF from Arctic operations?

          • Donald Carey

            A flimsy hull not capable of breaking even a few inches of ice without damage.

          • Curtis Conway

            Send one and find out. Make sure that the weather cooperates, or your request for good weather gets to Planet Weather Command early so they will not have to deal with heavy seas (tongue in cheek).

            Laz, that question really brings into question if you are really a frigate sailor. The OHP could operate in Blue Water, but during heavy seas it is not your preferred platform. Some of the most treacherous Blue Water on the planet is in the Arctic, and the OHP was not Ice-Hardened by any stretch of the imagination.

            The USS Ticonderoga (CG-47) spent almost a month in the Arctic in the mid-80’s and the resulting report that came from that experience was to limit CG-47 vessels in Arctic waters to the extent possible, and heavily influenced DDG-51 design (wider beam). Even the US Coast Guard makes sure their hulls that operate in that environment are capable of the inevitable resulting in the Legend Class High Endurance Cutters to replace the Hamilton Class.

            If a Fleet Commander today sent an LCS into Arctic waters, particularly during the winter months, I would question his/her sanity, or experience level, or it reveals something about their personality that should have precluded him/her from command.

          • leesea

            go read the ice classification rules, and then get back to us

          • Stephen

            DEs begat FFs/FFGs begat LCS begat FFs again w/ unreliable propulsion & unproven modularity. Fix the propulsion issues, proscribe a mission class. ASW/AAW/USCG-style Interdiction. Upgrade/replace the Cyclones for littoral activities.

          • Lazarus

            Why have both an LCS/FF and a PC? Patrol coastals began life as an NSW insertion platform but were too big/noisy. They were only saved from the scrap yard by 9/11 and the need to conduct MIO ops in the persian Gulf. LCS can conduct the MIO ops as just a seaframe and be much more survivable than LCS. Propulsion issues have been over-covered by defense media. Only one LCS was ever towed back to port. Others were propulsion degredations similar to those that affect other ships. Modularity remains unproven I agree, but it remains possible as LCS was built from the keel up with lots of interface points at which to accept new equipment.

          • Stephen

            LCS has 2 hull designs; make one ASW the other gets the AAW mission. MIO, as needed. We may need to give the shallows to the Army or USCG.

          • leesea

            the answer is right in front of you! The LCS nee frigate is meant to be a blue water warship.
            The PC replacement needs to be a littoral warfare ship.
            And there are big differences between the two.

          • Pat Patterson

            Most of our ship classes though are mature designs as opposed to the LC, Ford carriers and the Zumwalt.

          • Lazarus

            Spiral development was employed to save costs. It’s a defense acquisition problem more than a DoN problem. The FFG went through a similar phase in the 1970’s and it resulted in the addition of LAMPS III, a lengthened hull, more crew and more onboard parts.

            I was in DH school with a Pat patterson. Is that you?

          • Curtis Conway

            “…The FFG went through a similar phase in the 1970’s…” . . . and the US Navy has forgotten every lesson they learned at that time.

          • Pat Patterson

            Don’t know. What does DH stand for?

          • Lazarus

            Department Head school. I guess not then. I went to that school with a officer named Pat Patterson.

  • PolicyWonk

    This LCS mess just keeps getting worse. The program started off lousy, and its been downhill ever since.

  • JohnByron

    The design(s) of the LCS engineering plants may have been overambitious (along with ZUMWALT’s), but the Surface Navy and the fleet itself should not be let off the hook. The next round of hearings should involve these folks (along with that bunch of rocket scientists in NavSea who signed off on these plants) and demand to be convinced that the fleet will have the training and funded maintenance to keep these buckets Charlie-One.

    • Paul

      Don’t know what is being done about the maintenance funding issues, but resources are being devoted to training. Ground was recently broken on an operational training facility for the Freedom variants in Mayport. It won’t be completed till sometime in 2018, but at least things are being done.

      • Lazarus

        Both Mayport and San Diego are the home of east/west coast LCSRON’s where the bulk of LCS crew training is to occur.

        • JohnByron

          “…is to occur.” And that’s the problem. Why the hell wasn’t this training in place BEFORE the ships went active?

          And is there also to be an LCS/ZUMWALT equivalent of the NPEB … or will the only evaluation happen when the ships (and the training) break down.

          • Lazarus

            There was a belief that training could be accommodated onboard. This was the same false assumption that drove the Navy to decommission the basic surface warfare officers school in Newport in 2003, only to re-establish it (of sorts) in Norfolk and San Diego in 2012. Someone was attempting to save $$$, and made a poor choice. Lots of defense $$$ get authorized, but poor choices like this discredit DoD and DoN and make the public unwilling to spend the needed additional funds for training facilities like the ones you suggested that are vital in standing up a new class of ship.

        • Paul

          Right, but from what I can piece together the first LCS to actually be homeported at Mayport was supposed to be the Little Rock and I don’t think it’s been commissioned yet. So LCSRON 2 has crews in place but no ships yet. Crew 109 is supposed to be the commissioning crew for the Little Rock and is already in place.

          Accommodating the reorganization to have all the Freedoms at Mayport will take a while, but things are moving in that direction.

      • JohnByron

        I wish the surface navy would learn to hate a stern chase. First LCS commissioning: 2008. Operational training facility: 2018. The surface navy’s priorities stink.

        • Paul

          True, but the decision to homeport more than 6 or 8 of the Freedom variants at Mayport seems to have been a moving target till recently. And even so I don’t think the first actual LCS to be homeported there (the Little Rock?) has arrived at Mayport as of yet or has even been commissioned. The facilities have to catch up with the reorganization plan of homeporting the Freedoms on the East coast.

          The Freedoms already on the West Coast probably won’t make the move to the east coast for a while. The Detroit was just commissioned and was already slated for San Diego before the reorganization of the LCS types happened.

          Anyway, the housing and offices for 800-900 LCS Squadron Two personnel are built already and the training facility is in the works. They are still waiting for the ships to be commissioned and actually show up. It’s frustrating, but given the changes in plans it seems like the powers that be are doing their best to keep pace.

          • Lazarus

            I think Mayport will remain the homeport for the bulk of the LCS-1 variants. I believe USS Milwaukee is to be homeported in Mayport, followed by other LCS 1 units. The first two LCS 1 units (Freedom and Fort Worth) will be experimental and I’m not sure where they will be assigned.

      • wilkinak

        The Navy did this kicking and screaming. They’ve been flying folks to/from San Diego to support ships in Mayport for years. They knew the ships would be in Mayport, but never bothered to stand up training facilities.

        • Lazarus

          The LCSRON’s were always to be in Mayport and San Diego.

        • Paul

          I believe first LCS to originally be homeported at Mayport was the Little Rock and I’m not sure if it has been commissioned yet. The LCS facilities in Mayport are underway, but were planned before the recent reorganization of the LCS types happened.

    • Lazarus

      The engineering plants (CODAG)are new, as are the hulls (semi-planning and Trimaran), the propulsion medium (waterjets) and the rotational crew concept. The Navy may have attempted to make too great a leap in one class of ship, but current issues are more cultural to the surface navy rather than funding or training.

      • JohnByron

        New? Huh? First LCS variant commissioned 2008, second 2012.

        By contrast, the OHIO-class submarines first deployed with the TRIDENT II missile in 1990. In 1986, my budget for associated training was a half-billion dollars, a fifth of a billion in FY87, and both US and British crews were being trained across the board at Kings Bay before the IOC.

        You get what you pay for.

        • Lazarus

          The LCS program was paused from 2007-2009 because the first 2 units were far more expensive than forecast. 4 projected units were cut. The program was restructured and is now producing ships on schedule except where sequestration has changed defense spending. At $479m per unit, LCS is a good value, and its cost has not significantly increased from the $300m ($220 in 2001 dollars) that was originally suggested as its base price.

          LCS has also been attempted on a fraction of the $$$ that was and remains available for the nuclear submarine program.

      • Pat Patterson

        CODAG plants have been talked about for years and are on several classes of foreign warships. CODOG plant have been around for quite awhile.

        • Lazarus

          It has never been on a US surface combatant.

  • RobM1981

    How would you like to be the gent defending this mess?

    Also: in the photo of the Coronado, I see that they stapled a couple of Harpoon launchers on the forecastle. Would you call that a “low observable” installation?

    I’ve seen radar reflectors on sailboats with lower cross-sections…

    • Lazarus

      LCS was never designed as a “low observable” platform. All Harpoons as mounted exterior to the ship, as opposed to vertical launch installations.

      • Ctrot

        Oh please, all anyone has to do is look at an LCS and it is obvious their hull forms are at least attempting to be low observable.

        • Lazarus

          Read Bob Work’s 2013 LCS program history. There was no attempt to make LCS a stealth platform.

          • Ctrot

            I’ll trust my own eyes thank you.

      • Rick

        Untrue. From 2002: “To enhance survivability, the LCS will incorporate low observable technologies. Its stealth and speed will bolster its self-defense capabilities and allow it to operate where the risk would be too great for other warships. The presence of diesel submarine and mine threats in the littoral will require that LCS be designed with ship quieting, noise monitoring and controlled anti-mine signatures. A shallow draft of 20 feet or less will facilitate shallow-water and near-land excursions.”

  • JohnByron

    “Both variants fall severely short of the Navy’s reliability requirements, and have a near-zero chance of completing a 30-day mission (the Navy’s requirement) without a critical failure of one or more seaframe subsystems essential for wartime operations. The trend of poor reliability of critical seaframe systems has also affected the deployments of LCS 1 and 3, and most recently LCS 4, and these deployments did not
    exercise the ships in stressing wartime operational tempo. The poor suitability demonstrated during the operational test periods are therefore, not anomalous, but in fact, a clear indication that these ships will not be operationally available nor fully mission capable more than a fraction of the time in wartime conditions. The recent problems observed during peacetime are likely only the tip of the iceberg for the problems crews might deal with when in more severe combat. Such results also have grave implications for operations and sustainment costs, which will plague the Navy for years to come if these inherent engineering problems are not corrected.” Statement of J. Michael Gilmore, Director, Operational Test & Evaluation, Office of SecDef, before the HASC on 6 December 2016.

    When you’re in a hole, stop digging…

    • Lazarus

      LCS has a 21, not a 30 day requirement, a program detail repeatedly approved by Congress. Only 1 LCS suffered a significant propulsion failure (Milwaukee). The others were propulsion-limiting casualties that I frequently saw in my own 20+ year naval career. I don’t think anyone can adequately describe what “wartime” conditions for a naval conflict in the 21st century look like so I would be careful in suggesting that any class of ship can or cannot meet them. Dr. Gilmore is a political actor seeking to justify the continued existence of his organization through finding as many faults as possible with LCS and other programs. After all, it there were not many threats, there would be no need for DOT&E.

  • Russ Neal

    The Arleigh Burke program seems like a very successful model. Why not build a frigate as a half-Arleigh Burke, with a gun, a smaller vertical launch package, one helo, and half the same engineering plant? Spare parts, maintenance and training wold be similar.

    • Lazarus

      That would be a $1b plus ship and unaffordable in the numbers the Navy desired.

  • JohnByron

    Cancellation may not be the answer, not as long as the Surface Navy and NavSea continue on the same course. The problem isn’t the LCS. It’s the mismanagement of the LCS Program by NavSea and by its Surface Warfare sponsor.

    It’s difficult to find any aspect of this good concept that has been well executed. First LCS commissioned in 2008 … and the training facility scheduled on-line 10 years later. Six major engineering breakdowns. OSD OT&E says it cannot do its job. Apologists falling all over themselves to excuse the problems … and convincing no one.

    But no accountability, no lessons learned, no one in charge and standing up to make things right.

    If this were Rickover’s program, heads would have rolled. And he’d be standing in front of Congress taking full responsibility himself. Levering Smith would have applied the same accountability as he did to the difficulties at the beginning of the TRIDENT-II test flights. Wayne Meyer would have managed and led his Surface Navy out of the wilderness. Joe Metcalf would have chicken-choked a long line of program people both at OP-03 and at NavSea.

    Is anyone home? Does anyone care? This is shameful and all the sophistry below does nothing to exonerate the people responsible for this limping disaster.

    • Lazarus

      PEO LCS has done an admirable job managing the LCS program since 2011. Many current and continuing LCS problems stem from poor management in the 2000’s that led to the program pause from 2007 to 2009.
      There has been one “breakdown,” and other problems involved propulsion degradations. The people from the past that you cite had a lot more money and a much more permissive operating environment that was largely cloaked by Cold War secrecy. Post Cold War revolutions like LCS and DDG 1000 were expected to achieve the same results but with much less $$$ and in an open public environment. Admiral Metcalf actually did some of the initial alternative fleet force structure architecture studies that led to LCS, so he might not be as pissed as you suggest.

      • airider

        Once PEO LCS came about it did a better job managing a bad situation. However, before that the program, managed by PMS-501 (seaframe) and PMS-420 (mission packages) within PEO Ships, had been running with minimal manning for almost a decade at that point. It was scary how few people were in those program offices….and folks wonder why the Navy is in the situation it’s in?!?!

        The program pause from 2007-2009 was due to the fleet (specifically CNSF) engaging to see how they’d manage and use these ships once delivered. CNSF had lots of questions for the class focused mainly on operations that didn’t have any answers. They didn’t blame the program office since that’s not the program offices job. It’s the fleet’s job and nobody had come up with the answers….which is direct evidence that the fleet never embraced this class and never put in the time to figure if they really wanted it or how they wanted to use it.

  • Curtis Conway

    Throw good money after bad (?), and it still doesn’t do what it is supposed to do! Sound like a good plan to you just to get the numbers up? That’s sound thinking!

  • vincedc

    Something wrong with the concept of buying crappy ships to keep the people who build them in business. I know this is a lot more complicated than what we see on the surface, but at some point the contractors need to be accountable.

  • MarlineSpikeMate

    Embarrassing seeing the Admiral stumble and just be ill informed on LCS in general.

  • old guy

    LCS to frigate is like USS Langley to the USS America.

  • Ed L

    The LCS might’ve started off as a good idea but the brass forgot the kiss principle.

  • old guy

    Stackley had little to recommend him for the lob and he has proven it true.

  • old guy

    Sorry that he had little background for the job. I hope Prez Trump can make better choices.

  • old guy

    Talk about trying to make a silk purse out of a sows ear!