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LCS: Still a Sinking Ship

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Congress heard testimony yesterday on the ongoing problems with the Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship (LCS). The Government Accountability Office (GAO) testified about the beleaguered project, which was intended to produce an unconventional new warship but instead has faced extensive problems including engine failures, cracks, and corrosion.

On July 20, the first LCS to deploy overseas lost propulsion near Singapore when the USS Freedom’s diesel generators overheated and shut down. In April 2012, The Project On Government Oversight told Congress that “based on the ship’s history of design and equipment failure, the LCS is simply not ready to be deployed to Singapore, as has been planned, or to any other destination.” That analysis was not heeded and after the recent breakdown, former POGO investigator Ben Freeman, who led the initial investigation into the LCS’s technical failings, told, “We were talking about these problems two years ago, and we were told at the time…all this has been dealt with, from the equipment failures to the cracking.”

The GAO testimony confirms that although the Navy has made progress in addressing some of the design and construction flaws of the ship, it has also continued to dump money into the project without establishing a structure for development and testing. For example, the GAO writes that under the current Navy plan, key operational tests of the LCS seaframe will occur in fiscal year 2019. By that point, however, the Navy will have already purchased 33 seaframes, more than half the planned amount.

The cost of the ship continues to be an issue as well. According to the testimony, the congressional cost cap of the LCS doubled between 2006 and 2010, even as “expected capabilities have lessened from optimistic, early assumptions to more tempered and reserved assumptions.” Like POGO, GAO recommends that Congress restrict LCS funding until testing is completed and require the DoD to report to Congress before awarding additional contracts. These are common-sense reforms.

Furthermore, Congress should stop spending taxpayer dollars on one of the two variants of the LCS. The Navy is still following a dual-development plan where both Lockheed Martin and General Dynamics are building separate variants of the LCS. While the General Dynamics LCS certainly has its flaws, Lockheed Martin’s version—the ship that broke down near Singapore—has been beset by alarming failures since the beginning. It’s also the more expensive of the two designs. The Lockheed Martin variant of the LCS should be eliminated to better protect the seas and our sailors, and Congress should continue to keep a close watch on the Navy so we can stop taxpayer dollars from going down with the ship.

Image from the U.S. Navy.

By: Jana Persky
Intern, POGO

Photograph of Jana Persky Jana Persky is an intern for the Project On Government Oversight.

Topics: National Security

Related Content: DOD Oversight, Littoral Combat Ship, Wasteful Defense Spending

Authors: Jana Persky

Submitted by Dfens at: August 11, 2013
This is why it is important for smaller defense subcontractors to stand up against the current procurement system of waste and fraud. Those at the bottom are always the losers in this system because it only awards corruption. If you do a good job as a subcontractor, then your reward is you don't get to play next time because you didn't make the prime contractor rich enough. If you screwed around and jacked up the price of everything you did, you might make more money by playing the game the right way, but, hell, anyone can play stupid so what differentiates you from some other loser subcontractor? Nothing, that's what. Come on, you small defense contractors and subcontractors, stand with me against this system of waste. Tell your representatives in Congress to put an end to contracts that reimburse contractors for development costs plus a profit. Anyone with any business sense at all can see though that scam. You are the big losers, just like the US taxpayer and the guys on the front lines. You have a bigger voice than I have! Join in. Let's put a stake in the heart of the current procurement scam.
Submitted by Fotoman72 at: July 30, 2013
How come the sequestration has not effected this project the way it has impacted other government projects that directly impact the small business sectors? My company (who is a sub-subcontractor) was promised a substancial contract for building items for a government project, but this dissapeared with the sequester. I guess only companies on the fortune 500 list make out when times are tough.
Submitted by Dfens at: July 30, 2013
Currently the LCS boats (they don't rate being called ships) cost more to both design and build than Iowa Class battleships which sported 20 5 inch guns and 9 16 inch guns and 13 inches of steel armor. For those of you who just can't wrap your head around the destructive power of a 16 in gun, think of them as 2 or 3 UCAV's equipped with 2 500 lb bombs each flying toward a target at Mach 2.5 with a range of 20 miles. Instead of being capable of being sunk by a .50 cal machine gun on the deck of a pirate scow, the battleship can't be scratched by a direct hit from an Exocet anti-ship missile. Thanks to the fact that government defense contractors design our current generation of naval vessels, they cost far more and are capable of far less than the Navy we once had, yet so firm is the grasp of our current defense contractors on these jobs that neither the media nor POGO is willing to stand up to them. You'll hear it from me. We should go back to the US Navy designing its own ships. You won't hear it from the corporate controlled media or POGO no matter how obvious of a solution it is to simply go back to what worked so well before. It is really a sad day for America.
Submitted by Jill at: July 27, 2013
Reduce our National debt - reduce waste in DOD.
Submitted by marty at: July 27, 2013
If we discontinued weapons that experienced designed flaws, we would have any weapons to protect our nation. New technology takes time to iron out the bugs. So please stop criticizing your nations efforts.

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