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GAO Report on U.S. Navy Future Shipbuilding Investment

The following is the June 6, 2018 Government Accountability Office report Navy Shipbuilding Past Performance Provides Valuable Lessons for Future Investments.

From the Report

Challenges in meeting shipbuilding cost, schedule, and performance goals have resulted in a less-capable and smaller fleet today than the Navy planned over 10 years ago. While the Navy is continuing to accept delivery of ships, it has received $24 billion more in funding than originally planned but has 50 fewer ships in its inventory today, as compared to the goals it first established in its 2007 long-range shipbuilding plan. Cost growth has contributed to the erosion of the Navy’s buying power with ship costs exceeding estimates by over $11 billion during this time frame. Additionally, the Navy’s shipbuilding programs have had years of construction delays and, even when the ships eventually reached the fleet, they often fell short of quality and performance expectations. Congress and the Department of Defense have mandated or implemented various reform efforts that have led to some improvements, but poor outcomes tend to persist in shipbuilding programs.

The Navy is now planning for the most significant fleet size increase in over 30 years, which includes some costly and complex acquisitions, such as the Columbia-class ballistic missile submarine and a new class of guided missile frigates. In its long-range shipbuilding plan accompanying the fiscal year 2019 budget, the Navy estimated that it needs over $200 billion during the next 10 years to sustain a Navy fleet with more than 300 ships and begin working toward its ultimate goal of achieving a 355-ship fleet. As it embarks upon this plan, the Navy has an opportunity to improve its shipbuilding approach and avoid past difficulties. Over the last 10 years, we have issued 26 reports, identified shipbuilding best practices, testified before Congress on several occasions, and made 67 recommendations to help the Navy improve shipbuilding outcomes. The Department of Defense and the Navy have implemented 29 of our recommendations and have agreed with the principles of GAO’s identified best practices. In many cases, however, the Navy has not taken steps based upon these best practices. This product summarizes our key observations and identifies common challenges that shipbuilding programs have faced over the past decade to help the Navy deliver better outcomes for the sailor and the taxpayer going forward.

  • Marcd30319

    Why is Curtis Conway’s comment under moderation?

    • Curtis Conway

      Patriots don’t make things expensive and harder to support at the expense of the tax payer, which is basically what I said, in response to a previous comment by someone else about how I would be hugely dissappointed at configuration management of the Aegis Combat System today, as compared to when we were working B/L 1 thru 4. We established the standard, fielded a solid product, and the industry walked away from the process because they could not (or did not) want to discipline themselves to follow the process.

      • airider

        Interesting take. Aegis B/L 1-5 were built to mil-spec hardware and software architectures. After that, COTS crept in or became the whole architecture. We lost control of the CM, cost, and schedule when we started using somebody else’s hardware and software designs. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in development of products, it’s that you need to own it all, or you’ll own none of it and will have to deal with the consequences.

        Take a look at any reasonably sized government acquisition program….they’ll all have the same issues.

        • Curtis Conway

          COTS was supposed to reduce the cost of the parts, and Open Architecture was supposed to provide easier methodologies to implement the new technological advances. Those who got rid of our Configuration Management Professionals who truly understood what a Surface Combat System required (PMS 400 Office) should be drawn and quartered, for they are the reason we are where we are today . . . and their absence is why things like the Littoral Combat Ship exist, for they would never have permitted such an . . . abomination.

    • Curtis Conway

      My comment in totality, and tell me where I am wrong:
      Long range planning that includes disparate types of equipment on dissimilar hulls that require unique logistical support and training is NOT the formula for success. Then when the platform is marginally capable in any warfare area, or has no capability at all . . . then you consider the “…performance goals have resulted in a less-capable and smaller fleet today than the Navy planned over 10 years ago…” reality, perhaps it is time to reconsider just who is making this plan, and what is their criteria for success. Today it would seem sheer numbers is the goal, not capable platforms that can handle whatever tasking is assigned, which is more often the case in the EMERGENT deployment of Surface Combatants in this rapidly changing world.

      Then we consider the FORD problems, how long and how expensive it will be to fix those problems . . . one begins to understand that we had better stick to and count on some things we do well, like build aviation-centric USS America (LHA-6) and F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters. The FFG(X) had better be a Home Run too. The DDG-51 Flt III will certainly be a Home Run, and the cruiser upgrades certainly can be, and should be.

      The Columbia Class FBM simply cannot suffer delays. Similar evaluation of the SSN construction program, although a conventional AIP/diesel electric boat built on both coasts would really take pressure off of that equation, providing a capablility unknown in our current submarine force, provide more jobs while expanding/building new shipyards.

      Logistics ships like our new oilers/replenishment, ARS/ASR, tugs, must also come along smartly. The Icebreakers are utile to the US Navy as well and simply must move forward apace, in which the Navy has a stake (Command Ship capability) so it better be armed, and have huge aviation potential, or you invite disaster.

      Amphibious Forces are well on their way, and a shining light in this picture. The FFG(X) will help here as well when it comes out, and I can easily see a DDG and two FFG(X) accompanying an ARG/MAGTF on deployment.

      The LCS can hunt mines and support SOF and Marine Raiders, chase pirates and confiscate drugs, Show the Flag, and maintain presence in more benign environments . . . and the upgrade packages for each platform had better be significant so we can safeguard our sailors, for you will never fix the survivability problems w/r/t watertight integrity and compartmentalization because it cost too much, and is basically undoable at this point. Let us NOT build anymore unsurvivable surface combatant constructs.

      Just my 2ȼ.

      • Marcd30319

        Curtis, when I came to this article, I saw your posting was under moderation and a comments from someone named “N.” I have always thought you posted some interesting comments, and was never particularly provocative, so I was concerned about this. For what it’s work, “N” is gone and you have re-posted. Have a great day.

      • Rocco

        Kudos & I’ll see you 2¢

      • Secundius

        Depends on Who Name you mentioned one to many Times or in a Negative way. You’re forgetting that USNI News IS a Political Website, NOT a Public Discussion Forum…

        • Curtis Conway

          Comment is provided in its totality. No names.

          • Secundius

            You must have touched a nerve than…

          • Curtis Conway

            Understandable. We have learned so much about the LPD-17 and its construction over the years. If you remember the first two units and the fiasco associated with some of the construciton quality (or lack there of) and manufacturing mistakes, it has been a long road for HII to travel, but they have solved their quality problem, and the LPD-17 hull and systems is very solid today. It’s just they need to be less a one-off each, and all be more alike for life-time logistical support items. Yard periods and a consistent improvement program by the Type Commander can solve that problem. The LX(R) should build upon that success, and maintain as much commonality as possible to keep those life-time logistical support costs as low, consistent (therefore predictable) as possible. The FFG(X) program should be the same experience while hopefully skipping the early nightmare portion, and the 3D CAD design tools should be able to support that activity. For the LCS, it’s too late. It will be an ongoing nightmare to support for as long as they are in the fleet.

          • Secundius

            As I recall, the “Gerald Ford” was built using the 3D CAD Design Tool. And Literally became a Failure in Designed Capabilities…

          • Curtis Conway

            The FORD is such a LARGE construct with so many aspects to its contruction activity, it is almost a different universe over engineering an building smaller constructs. Inevitably it all boils down to Configuration Management and Leadership.

  • DaSaint

    This is a damning report. The bottom line is that the Navy has been complicit in ignoring good business practices, and the major yards know fully well that they will be paid for overruns they knew were coming when they presented their bids.

    That said, things may be changing ever so slowly. It’s interesting that complex submarine construction has been generally well managed, as have most of the auxiliaries, which are probably the least complex ship classes.

    While the OPC will not necessarily be a complex ship class, and it’s not for the USN, I think it notable that a yard that has proficiency for complex commercial shipbuilding (Eastern Shipbuilding) was awarded the design and construction contract of a military vessel. It will be informative to see if their performance with the first of class and follow-on ships is better than the examples cited in this report. If it is, it may be informative and possibly indicative of a willingness to consider non-military shipyards for future vessel construction, which may place enough pressure on the incumbent yards to lower prices and improve quality. Time will tell.

  • Curtis Conway

    FOR ‘N’:
    I am familiar with the Flt III problems, and going to remain optimistic. I don’t have a dog in the fight so I can afford to be. One thing that pulls me in an optimistic direction is the 3D design and manufacturing tools that HII has been using to good effect in design and checkout. Very similar experience to the submarine construction force. The less optimistic items are things associated with the new 4160v DC power generation, distribution, storage and conversion equipment. However, those lessons learned are distributed fast and shared widely. Software development on the radar is continuing apace at PMTC, and although I do not attend the program review boards, I have heard nothing that dissuades me of continuing success there. The SPY-6 AMDR and all of its constructs will be a great radar family for the navy.

    The Amphibious picture ‘has been’ as you describe, but the lessons are learned and LPD-17 class vessels come out more complete, and it would be nice if they could migrate to a common configuration for lifetime logistical support considerations during yard periods. That should be a design criterial in the LX(R) construction. My cup will remain half full, and we should build upon success, not dream up new headaches. Can’t wait to see HII FFG(X), and hope it’s a mini-Aegis NSC.

    • Rocco

      What’s in half your cup??🤔

      • Curtis Conway

        Good Things, Belief in American Industry, understanding QUALITY is NEVER an accident, and I can’t be the Last Eagle Scout in America. Let’s get to it folks . . . we have a country to fix, and work to do.

        • Rocco

          Copy that sir!☕️🍻

  • Lazarus

    LCS 1 and 2’s problems are known and have been for a decade. Both were built byRDT&E money and should not even be in this report since they were experimental. No mention of LCS success in staying under Congressional cost caps. No mention of sequestration delays or the near two year pause in the LCS program where many of the problems associated with LCS 1 and 2 were corrected.

    In other words, another GAO hit job on a program they don’t like because it does not fit the 1950’s-era acquisition system or its 1980’s, airplane focused OT&E program.