Sunday, May 06, 2012

Project on Government Oversight: Still Shrill After All These Years

Know Your ‘Reformers’: Episode 1 in potentially a long series


I’ve been toying for quite some time with the idea of maybe taking on a book project: a book about the modern era of so-called “Military Reformers” and the also so-called  ‘Military Reform Movement’. My interests in their activities reaches back to at least the late 70’s. As a byproduct of examining the output of the leading/most prolific ‘reformers’ in detail over the years I’ve managed to consume a great many of their screeds.  I have also acquired a fairly significant selection of their writings not available by other means (such as the internet).  Nearly all of the ‘reformer’ material I have acquired over the years has been either library remainder (free) or (mostly) purchased second-hand. The fine point here is this: as my research progressed and knowledge of the ‘Reformers’ increased, it became increasingly important to me to NOT subsidize their ‘work’ in any way, shape, or form.

Another Generation. Same Old Song and Dance.

In my ‘inbox’ earlier in the week was a link to an interesting piece posted at the Defense Professionals (DefPro) website (Although the publication of same calls the ‘Professionals’ part seriously into question). It is a classic example of the kind of thinking (or lack thereof) that goes into a typical POGO rant, but in this case, it offers the kind of transparency to POGO’s philosophy and modus operandi that I don’t think I’ve seen since Dina Rasor’s early effluences, back when she was cranking up POGO’s prior incarnation: the ‘Project on Military Procurement’.

Ben Freeman.
(A patriotic guy. Just ask him )
Source: POGO
The piece that follows was put together by one of POGO’s newest (and therefore greenest) ‘investigators’, one Ben Freeman, who has been rather prolific of late. The subject this time is the Littoral Combat Ship program, but it could be about almost any program. Indeed, as I read through the piece, which for our purposes Freeman conveniently structured in a ‘he said’-‘she said’ format, I was struck by the similarities in substance and tone that Dina Rasor used when she attacked (yes, a ‘trigger’ word, but that is what it was) the M-1 (tank and program) performance ‘back in the day’ without really understanding what a tank was for much less how it was to be used.  From the obvious parallels, it immediately became apparent that we could also use Freeman’s POGO piece to illustrate clearly the kind of philosophical, conceptual, and technical dissonance that exists between the worlds of those who ‘do’ things in the real world and those who ‘second guess’ from the trench lines of ‘Reformerland’.
Even better, we can accomplish this without having to deal with the more substantial issues of whether or not the LCS program is needed and justified and/or having to dissect the back-story motivations of the ‘second guessers’ for this go around and save just them for another time.
LCS 1 (Left) and LCS 2  (USN Photo)
I now present the DefPro piece in its entirety, with observations/commentary in [red brackets].     

Navy Defends $120 Billion LCS Program, POGO Publishes Rebuttal

08:27 GMT, May 2, 2012 POGO certainly caused a stir last week after sending a letter to U.S. Congress reporting that the USS Freedom, the first ship commissioned under the Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) program, has been plagued with cracks, flooding, corrosion, and repeated engine failures. In response to POGO’s letter, Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) amended the National Defense Authorization Act, “demanding that the Navy ‘fess up to Congress on problems with its Littoral Combat Ship,” according to AOL Defense. [First, note the self-promoting claim of causing a ‘stir’; we’ll get back to it later. The most interesting thing is how the quotation is used. If not read carefully, it might lead one to believe that Rep. Hunter was the one quoted, rather than a turn of a phrase that the author of the AOL piece -- one Sidney J. Freeberg Jr.-- used to punch up the opening of his article.]  
Hunter confirmed that our letter was the impetus for the amendment. “I didn’t realize the Navy had been so restrictive in its reporting even with DoD,” Rep. Hunter told AOL Defense. “We just want to know what’s going on.”

[Again, a carefully deceptive use of selective quotation.  One that rather carefully does NOT mention a more substantial quote a couple of paragraphs ahead of the ‘punchline’ Freeman lifted from Freeberg’s article. If Freeman had included the more explanatory quote ahead of this one, we would have read: "This simply makes the navy come to us and explain all the problems [and] all the good things about the LCS we need to know to conduct proper oversight," Rep. Hunter told the committee. "The Navy needs to be more forthcoming with us." But perhaps that more balanced description would have set the ‘wrong’ tone for what will follow? The claim of confirmation that POGO’s letter was the ‘impetus for the amendment’ is classic POGO: 
1) make claims where is not important whether or not they are ‘valid’, only that they cannot be ignored by legislators or administrators without risking escalation and appearance of indifference/malpractice.
2) Legislators/administrators move to at least pretend to examine the claims to avoid further complaint.
3) POGO then markets their activities as a ‘success’. “POGO gets results!” (as in the claim to have caused ‘a stir’)
Note: Expect mention of this ‘success’ in future POGO fundraising briefings/pleas to preserve and expand their donor base.]       
Rep. Hunter is joined in this bipartisan push for oversight of the LCS program by fellow House Armed Services Committee Members Hank Johnson (D-GA), who issued a statement supporting Hunter’s amendment, and Jackie Speier (D-CA), who sources confirm will be issuing LCS legislation of her own. And just yesterday, The Hill reported that Senators Carl Levin (D-MI) and John McCain (R-AZ), the Chair and Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, respectively, have called for a Government Accountability Office (GAO) review of the program.

It all seemed to touch a nerve with the Navy, which quickly moved to defend the $120 billion LCS program, which calls for a new wave of nimble combat ships designed to operate close to shore. The beleaguered Freedom, manufactured by Lockheed Martin, is one of two LCS designs.

[Obviously Freeman is still trying to set up the right POGO vibe here. ‘Touch a nerve’? Will we perhaps see in a short while why a rapid response from the Navy should be considered so ‘remarkable’ or when viewed in context will it be actually ‘unremarkable’?]
The Navy issued a response to our letter so quickly that even Defense News remarked that it was delivered with “uncharacteristic alacrity.”

[Again, setting up the idea that the ‘Navy’ (yes, apparently ALL of it) was ‘unsettled’, by the machinations of the (apparently) ‘mighty’ POGO? If the previous comments serve any purpose other than casting the Navy in a less than flattering pose, it is not exactly clear what  they are here for, or otherwise why they would have been included in this POGO piece at all.]

One point the Navy protests is our statement that LCS ships will make up as much as half of the Navy’s surface fleet. The Navy cites a report to Congress that says the LCS will account for 22 percent of the “21st Century Battle Force.”

We can admit when we’re wrong. But in this case the “22 percent” the Navy cites is not accurate, either. The planned 55 LCS ships will account for 38 percent of the Navy’s surface combatant ships.

[So. POGO takes issue with the Navy’s ship count numbers. Is it because POGO has a better list of ships, more authoritative definitions of what constitutes a ‘surface fleet’ or ‘battle force’, or a better grasp of naval force plans than the Navy itself? Why is this example of what is really ‘communication at cross purposes’ included in this piece at all?  I think we are again left with the perception of some deceptive, and IMHO rather pissy, ‘battlefield prep’ on the part of POGO’s Freeman.]  
As for the rest of the Navy’s response to our letter, we’ll beg to differ and stand by our work.
Here’s a side-by-side comparison of the Navy’s response and our rebuttal:
“Senior Navy officials have publicly praised the LCS program. However, the Navy has been reluctant to share documents related to LCS vulnerabilities with entities such as the Pentagon’s Office of the Director of Operational Test and Evaluation (DOT&E).”
• The Navy’s Response:

This is not correct. The LCS Program Office has been working in close coordination with the DOT&E community since the early days of the program. DOT&E has been an active member of the T&E Working level Integrated Program Teams (WIPTs) since 2004 and most recently at the [Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD)] level in the milestone-related Integrating IPTs (IIPTs) and Overarching IPTs (OIPTs) that occurred in 2011. Draft Detail Design Integrated Survivability Assessment Reports (DDISAR) were provided to DOT&E in the second quarter of fiscal 2012 to initiate discussions while modeling results and shot line selections are completed. DOT&E is working with the program office to complete the DDISARs and move toward developing Total Ship Survivability Trials (TSST) plans that assess Seaframe survivability in fiscal 2014. DOT&E will receive the final DDISARs prior to the planning and conduct of the TSSTs. Additionally, the LCS Program Office provided a draft of the 57mm Live Fire Test and Evaluation Management Plan to OSD/DOT&E on 29 March, and received comments on 3 April 2012. Comment resolution is in process.
• Our Rebuttal:

The only two documents the Navy confirms sharing with DOT&E are a “draft of the 57mm Live Fire Test and Evaluation Management Plan,” and a draft of the “Detail Design Integrated Survivability Assessment Reports.” Both of which were just recently received by DOT&E. As our letter indicates, the Navy possessed several documents related to the ship’s performance and equipment failures that it failed to share with DOT&E. Plans to create trials in 2014 do nothing to improve oversight of a ship that will be deployed to Singapore in 2012.
[Got that? First POGO accuses the Department of the Navy with not being forthcoming with DoD’s DOT&E organization using the unbounded term ‘reluctance’ to describe LCS document sharing concerning the LCS’s ‘vulnerabilities’ . In response, the Navy points out that DOT&E representatives are embedded participants within the LCS test community, and lists specific LCS Program draft reports that have been submitted on relevant activities (to the ‘vulnerabilities’ topic that POGO highlighted). It is also apparent from the statement these reports are being submitted on an event-driven schedule.
POGO’s ‘rebuttal’ ? Freeman chooses to ignore the statement concerning ongoing DOT&E participation with the cognizant LCS Test &Evaluation IPT, then Freeman carps about the low number of reports acknowledged to have been shared by the Navy. Does POGO/Freeman really feel entitled to a comprehensive list of communications between the Navy and DOT&E based upon a ‘letter’ they wrote, or are they just keeping on the offensive as the best form of defense? (The latter could be described as a typical ‘reformer’ move BTW: think Boyd’s OODA Loop)
LCS 1 USS Freedom replenishment with LHD 6 USS Bonhomme Richard  (USN Photo)
In this case though I believe the former was more ‘wished for’ than expected. This appears more likely to be, in the best POGO/Reformer tradition, a case of asking for information and then making the next move based upon the response. 1) If the information requested is not provided, make assertions of ‘reluctance’ (the cycle on this path eventually ramps up to accusations of ‘coverup’ or worse). 2) If the information requested IS provided, then interpret it to support the agenda in hand.

The ‘tell’ this time is the importance Freeman mentioning “several documents related to the ship’s performance and equipment failures that it failed to share with DOT&E”. Aside from the inflammatory ‘failed to share’ phrasing, from a systems Reliability, Maintainability and Availability (RM&A) point of view, it would be fundamental nonsense to analyze failure data and draw any final conclusions as to failure significance or trends, and in some cases even root cause, this early in a program. The mixing of complaint about structural performance and system performance is either shotgunning the target hoping to hit something, or indicative that like many ‘reformers’ Freeman doesn’t know enough to distinguish between the two. Modern complex systems typically require tens of thousands of operating hours before system reliability can be ‘graded’ against specifications.  The only purpose for outside and uninformed interests to acquire such data this early is for target practice and laying groundwork for further misadventures in furthering their agenda. 

– “… (LCS-1, the first LCS ship) has been plagued by flawed designs and failed equipment since being commissioned, has at least 17 known cracks.”

– “Before and during the ship’s second set of rough water trials in February 2011, 17 cracks were found on the ship’…”
– “Another crack was discovered “below the waterline and is currently allowing water in... When discovered there was rust washing onto the painted surface. It is thought this is rust from the exposed crack surface. It is unknown how long this crack existed prior to being discovered.”

– “Similarly, cracks in the deck plating and center walkway on the port side were mirrored by corresponding cracks on the starboard side. Fifteen experts, including a source within the Navy, have informed POGO that the cracks in nearly identical locations on opposite sides of the ship may be indicative of systematic design issues.”
– “Last May, the LCS program manager issued near term operating guidance for LCS-1, which placed significant constraints on the ship’s safe operating envelope (SOE).”

– “Specifically, the new guidance states that in rough water (sea state 7; 19.5- to 29.5-foot waves) with following seas, the ship cannot travel at speeds greater than 20 knots, and cannot travel into head seas at any speed. Even in calmer seas (sea state 5; 8.2- to 13.1-foot waves) the ship’s peak speed into head seas is capped at 15 knots, relegating the Navy’s “cheetah of the seas” to freighter speeds.”

• The Navy’s Response:

Speed restrictions for LCS 1 have been lifted. With regard to the cracking discussion, these are not new findings. LCS 1 has experienced minor structural issues. The details of the cracks found on LCS 1 were briefed to the defense committees, including the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) over a year ago (March 2011). All repairs were conducted using approved repair procedures and satisfactorily inspected by American Bureau of Shipping (ABS) and the appropriate Naval Technical Authority. Thorough analyses and reviews of the designs and construction documentation were conducted, with the goal of improved production processes. Design changes, as necessary, have been incorporated in future hulls to resolve noted issues. Production processes were modified as needed, to prevent future issues. These design changes were implemented into LCS 1 throughout her post delivery period, the ship has been approved to operate with the full scope of the approved Safe Operating Envelope (SOE) since completion of the repairs.
• Our Rebuttal:
The Navy’s claim that the cracking issues have been reported is partially correct. The cracks were reported, but the extent of the cracking was not. These cracks have been repaired, but the cracking problem continues according to sources close to the program. Faulty welds and construction continue to cause new cracks on the ship that the Navy has yet to report.

The Navy also claims “the ship has been approved to operate within the full scope of the approved Safe Operating Envelope (SOE) since completion of the repairs.” But, being approved to operate within the full scope of the SOE and actually operating are completely different. The simple fact is that since completion of these repairs the ship has been unable to successfully perform at the upper end of its SOE.
[POGO first makes a litany of assertions related to structural cracks and their consequences, including a rather humorous appeal to authority  in employing ‘Fifteen experts’ stating a rather obvious  factoid ‘may’ be true. One would think one expert would have sufficed for such a weak assertion of something not likely to be disputed. Once you get past the unintended humor, the first questions that come to my mind are:
1) Is the discovery of the need to make structural tweaks a normal part of wringing out a new ship?
2) Is the scope and impact of the cracking to date typical, lower or higher than might be reasonably   expected?
3) Does the Navy (or ship builders in general) employ a methodical strategy for identifying, tracking and fixing structural issues/problems?
4) If they do not, why isn’t POGO raising a holy stink over the absence of same?

But we don’t need to get too deep into the topic of what the norms are because of the Navy response: Ummm. We fixed all those problems.

POGO’s rebuttal: There’s more problems that have occurred, and an unsupported assertion that the LCS in question has been unable to ‘perform at the upper end’ of its operating environment, which even if true, from the sound of it this is unrelated to structural problems, so why bring it up at all on this subtopic, except as sort of a ‘yes but’ deflection? ] 

“From the time the Navy accepted LCS-1 from Lockheed Martin on September 18, 2008, until the ship went into dry dock in the summer of 2011 — not even 1,000 days later — there were 640 chargeable equipment failures on the ship. On average then, something on the ship failed on two out of every three days.”

• The Navy’s Response:
As with any ship, all equipment failures on LCS 1, regardless of how minor the impact to mission, have been meticulously tracked, and this data has been invaluable in improving the reliability of ship systems. The 640 chargeable equipment failures from Ship Delivery until the summer dry docking, tracked in the LCS 1 Data Collection, Analysis, and Corrective Action System (DCACAS) represent all equipment failures to the ship for all systems (propulsion, combat systems, auxiliaries, habitability, C4I, etc) regardless of whether the equipment was repaired by the crew or off ship maintenance personnel.
The 640 failures referenced include multiple failures on a piece of equipment (38 for the Main Propulsion Diesel Engine) and single failures to equipment (one Man Overboard Indicator). From the DCACAS report dated 31 Aug 2011, approximately 12 percent of the equipment failures since delivery can be attributed to the Ship Service Diesel Generators (SSDGs). In May 2010 the Navy and Lockheed Martin instituted a Product Improvement Program for the SSDG. The resulting effort increased Mean Time Between Failures (MBTF) for the equipment from less than 150 hours (October 2008) to over 500 hours (April 2011).
This is a case of how the DCACAS data is used to improve the reliability of the ships early in the acquisition program. Overall the DCACAS data is a mechanism to evaluate every failure on the ship to determine if it can be attributed to infant mortality of the equipment, normal wear and tear for that equipment/component, or is a trend that needs to be addressed via design changes or reliability growth efforts.

• Our Rebuttal:
The Navy does not dispute the 640 failures, which had not been previously reported. The Navy mentions that the DCACAS data is used to determine if failure can be attributed to infant mortality, normal wear and tear, or is a trend. Their file confirms that nearly a third of these failures were potential or confirmed trends, which, according to the Navy should “be addressed via design changes or reliability growth efforts.” This is precisely our rationale for questioning this ship’s design.

[ POGO’s Freeman first commits the ‘fundamental nonsense’ I mentioned earlier. The Navy pretty much responds as if helping a child with their color matching skills. Freeman double-downs on the 640 failures as not being reported’ yet they must have been reported somewhere for Freeman to have been aware of them. Then Freeman takes the point that the Navy notes that failures where trends have been identified (obviously either simple systems or related to simple installation, or operating factors or problems anticipated via earlier analysis and test) should “be addressed via design changes or reliability growth efforts”. Freeman then makes the illogical claim that the existence of problems, the scope of which he has failed to establish are truly worrisome or even out of the expected norm “is precisely our rationale for questioning this ship’s design”. 
The fact that Freeman believes technical problems or issues arising on the introduction of a new weapon system (on which he has no expertise or just as important, no experienced perspective to judge the significance of) into its operating environment SHOULD give him cause to be “questioning this ship’s design”, would normally cause the recreational sailor in me to suspect that Freeman apparently has never been around a ‘boat’ much less a ‘ship’ long or often enough to be a proper judge of ship systems reliability and performance, and this last passage would seem to be evidence enough to suspect his qualifications to even ask the RIGHT questions concerning same.

LCS 2 Under Construction (GD/Austal Photo)
Except if you know how ‘reformers’ work, you would realize that this kind of faux indignance is their bread and butter.  Good engineers and program managers understand the challenges of complexity and can distinguish between necessary and unnecessary complexity, and they even know there is room for disagreement on same, one of the reasons for the term: Best Engineering Judgment.  Engineers and program managers know there will always be technical problems to solve when fielding any complex (and even simple) system. Engineers and program managers know that sources and remedies to the technical problems may be found in the design, the construction, the integration, or even the training and education of the operators. Engineers and program managers know that until you actually field a system--complex or simple--you will NEVER know about all-- much less be able to preclude all-- potential technical problems. Good Engineers and program managers see a technical problem as to be expected and solved. So-called ‘Reformers’ see technical problems as simply reasons to do something other than what is being done, something to be used in furthering their own agendas. And those agendas may or may not be what is publicly stated, but they are never FOR advancing a weapon system under development. ]  

“Secretary of the Navy Raymond Mabus told the Senate Armed Services Committee in December 2010 that both variants of the LCS were performing well, and that “LCS–1, the Freedom, demonstrated some of the things we can expect during her maiden deployment earlier this year.” Then-Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Gary Roughead echoed this praise for the LCS-1, stating “I deployed LCS earlier than any other ship class to assure we were on the right path operationally. It is clear to me that we are.”

• The Navy’s Response:
USS FREEDOM (LCS 1) arrived in San Diego on April 23, 2010, successfully completing her maiden deployment more than two years ahead of schedule and three to five years faster than conventional ship acquisition strategies. LCS 1 traveled 6,500 miles, transiting the Panama Canal. Highlights of operations in 3rd and 4th Fleet Areas of Responsibility include theater security cooperation port visits in Colombia, Panama, and Mexico, successful performance of strike group operations with the USS Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group, joint maneuvers with the Mexican Navy, and counter-illicit trafficking patrols which resulted in 4 interdictions yielding over 5 tons of cocaine, 2 seized vessels, and 9 suspected smugglers taken into custody. The second phase of the early deployment included LCS 1 participating in the bi-annual Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise with 14 other nations, 34 ships, 5 submarines, 100 aircraft and over 20,000 personnel. The early deployment included the development of a coordinated logistics support plan. The lessons learned from the LCS 1 deployment have provided critical data to inform the permanent support plan for the 55 ships of the LCS class, as well as valuable information used in the construction of both LCS 3 and the Block buy ships.

• Our Rebuttal:
These quotes are not an “issue” that we raised. We mentioned them in context of the ship’s failures to show the disconnect between what Navy officials were telling Congress and what was actually happening on the ship.

[No. To be accurate, you might reasonably claim you “mentioned them in context of” of what POGO views as “the ship’s failures” in an attempt “to show” what POGO asserts is “the disconnect between what Navy officials were telling Congress and what” POGO views as “was actually happening on the ship”.

“Mabus and Roughead failed to mention that during the approximately two-month deployment when the ship traveled from Mayport, Florida, to its home port in San Diego, California, there were more than 80 equipment failures on the ship. These failures were not trivial, and placed the crew of the ship in undue danger. For example, on March 6, 2010, while the ship was in the midst of counter-drug trafficking operations and reportedly “conducted four drug seizures, netting more than five tons of cocaine, detained nine suspected drug smugglers, and disabled two ‘go-fast’ drug vessels,” there was a darken ship event (the electricity on the entire ship went out), temporarily leaving the ship adrift at sea.”
• The Navy’s Response:

Throughout its deployment, LCS 1 safely operated and conducted its mission. Few of the 80 equipment failures cited above were mission critical. The ship did experience a brief loss of power, however, it should be noted that many commercial and U.S. Navy vessels have periods of power loss due to plant set-up and operator control. In the event of power loss, there are specific U.S. Navy procedures documented in the Engineering Operational Sequencing System (EOSS) to quickly restore power throughout the ship. To address concerns documented with electric power generation, the LCS Program executed Electric Plant Reliability Improvement Programs on both ship designs to increase reliability of ship service diesel generators and the performance and management of the shipboard electrical systems. This has resulted in changes that have been implemented through post-delivery availabilities on LCS 1 and LCS 2 as well as captured for LCS 3 and follow ships. Additionally, sensors were installed to monitor performance trends.

• Our Rebuttal:
The Navy confirmed “the ship did experience a brief loss of power” while deployed, which again had not been previously reported or shared with Congress in any public testimony. In addition, the Navy claims that, “Throughout its deployment, LCS 1 safely operated and conducted its mission. Few of the 80 equipment failures cited above were mission critical. The ship did experience a brief loss of power…” The fact that other ships lose power does nothing to lessen the danger of unexpected power outages on a ship the Navy would have us believe can survive naval warfare.

In other words, the Navy admits there were mission critical failures, including a brief loss of power, on this LCS-1 mission. This stands in stark contrast to Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus telling Congress that this mission was a success and the ship “demonstrated some of the things we can expect.” Unless we are to expect rampant equipment failures, it appears that the Navy was misleading Congress about these issues.

[POGO says: Problems BAD! USN says: Problems Typical and Unremarkable. POGO says: Navy BAD for not reporting Typical and Unremarkable problems.

This reads more like POGO trying to manufacture the appearance of a cover up than anything else.]

“According to the DoD’s DOT&E FY 2011 Annual Report, the LCS is “not expected to be survivable in a hostile combat environment.”

• The Navy’s Response:
The LCS Ships are built to meet Joint Requirements Oversight Council-approved survivability requirements and include OPNAVINST 9070.1 Level 1 Survivability standards [note: OPNAVINSTs are instructions issued with the office of the chief of naval operations]. The LCS design specifically includes Level 1 plus additional tailored survivability enhancements (“Level 1+”). LCS survivability depends on a combination of ship design, ship numbers, and ship CONOPS [concepts of operations] which says LCS will:
– Operate as part of a networked battle force
– Conduct independent operations only in low to medium threat scenarios
– Operate as part of a networked battle force operation in high threat environments
– Create Battle Space/Avoid being hit
– Rely on networked battle force for threat attrition
– Rely on overboard systems
– Fight and survive if hit
– Ship design: Accept ship mission kill; keep ship afloat and protect crew after hit
– Battle force design: Maintain battle force fight-through capability through LCS numbers and mission flexibility
– Withdraw/reposition if hit

LCS is designed to maintain essential mobility after a hit, allowing the ship to exit the battle area under its own power. The LCS systems allow ship’s crew to navigate and communicate while repositioning after a hit all the while utilizing numbers (of LCSs), and CONOPS as force multipliers. LCS incorporates survivability systems to perform required missions in the littoral with an emphasis on crew survival.

• Our Rebuttal:
The Navy again confirms that the LCS has a “Level 1+” survivability rating. According to the Navy “Level I represents the least severe environment anticipated and excludes the need for enhanced survivability…in the immediate area of an engaged Battle Group or in the general war-at-sea region.” In other words, the ship is not expected to survive a true battle at sea. Additionally, given that the littoral combat ship will, by definition, be operating close to shore, it is also extremely vulnerable to land-based attacks, which it is ill-equipped to defend against.

The Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Greenert recently said the LCS was not prepared to “challenge the Chinese military” and you can’t “send it into an anti-access area.”
In short, this is a surface combatant that can’t truly engage in surface combat.

[POGO: DOT&E Report says ship not survivable, USN: Ship designed to be survivable where and when used as intended and BTW: here’s how, POGO: But the Navy can’t use it this other way-- so it doesn’t count. Neener Neener.
BTW: You just gotta’ love the ‘reformer’ chutzpa in rolling out their own definition of surface combat and insisting it overrides that of the USN’s.]

“Sources close to LCS-1 have now told POGO that after more than six months in port, the ship has been back to sea just twice. The sources also informed us about critical problems that surfaced on the ship during those two outings: several vital components on the ship failed including, at some point in both trips, each of the four engines.”

• The Navy’s Response:

LCS 1 had one of two gas turbines engines fail after over three years of operations (including post-delivery testing, fleet operations and ship early deployment). The root cause analysis of the engine failure revealed that the gas turbine intakes were allowing salt spray to be ingested into the engine intake structure during high seas evolutions, which lead to the eventual failure of a high pressure turbine blade. The salt water did not induce corrosion internal to the engine. However, it changed the air flow through the engine, which eventually led to the failure. As a result of the failure, a redesign of the intake structure along with improved mating seals was implemented on LCS 1 on post delivery and is in-line for LCS 3 and subsequent ships.
• Our Rebuttal:

The Navy does not dispute these previously unreported engine failures. They only discuss the results of an engine failure that occurred in 2010, which we do not mention in our letter.

[The USN blew off what smelled like a POGO fishing expedition, POGO doesn’t like it. That doesn’t make POGOs claims true or accurate and it doesn’t mean the USN even knew for certain what POGO was talking about (which would be just as valid a reason to not respond to POGO as any).]

“In addition, there were shaft seal failures during the last trip, which led to flooding.”
• The Navy’s Response:

During February 2012 sea trials LCS 1 suffered a failure of the port shaft mechanical seal (1 of 4 such seals). The remaining underway portion of the sea trial was ended and the ship returned to port unassisted. The failed boost shaft stern tube seal was analyzed by independent third party to gain insight into the failure. Repairs to the Port Boost Stern Tube Seal have been completed and the USS Freedom undocked on April 7. All other stern tube seals on FREEDOM were inspected and found not to have this issue. Due to manufacturing timelines and differences, it was determined that LCS 3 seals were not at risk of the same issue. In addition, LCS 3 seals have undergone extensive operation without failure.
• Our Rebuttal:

The Navy reports that shaft seals on the other engines of LCS-1 and those on LCS-3 were not at risk of this same failure. However, prior to this incident, the Navy was not aware the shaft seal that blew was at risk of failing either. [This is an incredibly stupid paragraph, isn’t it? What’s the difference between before and after? Hint: the Navy looked for the problem elsewhere after it occurred once. The Navy must understand the failure for them to state there is no risk for the same failure after looking at the rest of the seals.]

In short, the Navy has not taken any corrective action in response to this issue.

[POGO: Seal Problem! USN: After looking closely, seal failure seen as a onetime thing. Seal repaired! POGO: We don’t know the difference between a ‘repair’ for what appears to be a onetime issue and something that has to be fixed for all the ships (so we want to see a ‘corrective action’ plan?).

“The DOT&E’s FY 2011 Annual Report states that “[t]he program offices have not released any formal developmental T&E reports.” The report goes on to state that “the Navy should continue to report vulnerabilities discovered during live fire tests and analyses. Doing so will inform acquisition decisions as soon as possible in the procurement of the LCS class.”

• The Navy’s Response:
The Navy is actively developing the required reports documenting the results of all the Developmental Testing that has occurred on LCS 1. Once completed, these reports will be delivered to DOT&E as required.

• Our Rebuttal:

The Navy confirms the DOT&E’s statement, which we referenced in our letter, that “[t]he program offices have not released any formal developmental T&E reports.” In fact, the Navy’s response to this specific critique confirms that “the required reports documenting the results of all the Developmental Testing that has occurred on LCS 1” have not been completed. The Navy states that they will be delivered to DOT&E once they are, but offer no explanation as to why they have not been completed.
[Back to the ‘reports’ bleat eh? Notice how POGO conflates the fact there are no formal reports yet per 2011 DOT&E SAR, but conveniently fails to mention whether or not there were supposed to be any formal reports.  Now, if one bothers to actually read the report without bias, the reader will see that noting the absence of formal reports is not a critique, but a simple observation.  How typically ‘reformer’ of Freeman and POGO to twist facts to satisfy their purposes. ]

It is not unreasonable to ask the Navy to provide testing and evaluation reports for a ship that is scheduled to be deployed to Singapore and has already been deployed in the Caribbean. If the ship is performing as well as the Navy claims they should be eager to provide these reports.

[The assertion of belief as fact: more typical ‘reformer’.
Let’s correct this last paragraph:

POGO BELIEVES it is not unreasonable to ask the Navy to provide testing and evaluation reports for a ship that is scheduled to be deployed to Singapore and has already been deployed in the Caribbean. POGO BELIEVES if the ship is performing as well as the Navy claims they should be eager to provide these reports.

There, all better. ]


“The Navy has also repeatedly made significant changes to the program while giving Congress little time to evaluate these changes.”
• The Navy’s Response:

Configuration change management has been a key factor in controlling program cost. After incorporation of lessons learned from the lead ships into follow ships, the Program Office has controlled the design baseline closely in order to manage risk and cost.
The Program Office has captured and continues to capture data from these “first of class” vessels. The “first of class” discussion is an important perspective to add. USS Freedom (LCS 1) and USS Independence (LCS 2) not only are they “first of class” vessels but they were procured using research and development funds in a manner outside the bounds of previous ship programs. Previous combatant procurements leverage off of years of research and development, integration testing and validation of systems using surrogate platforms. Aegis Cruisers implemented a new combat system that was tested for over ten years on surrogate ships to a hull form that had already been tested and delivered. Aegis destroyers laid the same propulsion, power generation and combat system into a new hull form. All of these efforts did not preclude these ships from seeing “first of class” challenges.

The LCS programs however, took measures to instrument and collect data on the hull designs, execute design reviews/design updates and implement those findings into the follow-on awards. In addition, those findings have led to upgrades and changes on LCS 1 and LCS 2 to ensure that these research and development hulls are viable assets.
LCS 1 has traveled more than 65,000 nautical miles since it was delivered to the Navy in September 2008 and continues to meet our expectations.

• Our Rebuttal:

The Navy fails to respond to the actual issue we raised related to Congressional notification of program changes, specifically the shift from a down-select to a dual-award acquisition strategy. The Navy opted to instead discuss the “first of class” challenges on Aegis ships.
It’s true that all first of class ships will have problems. However, the extent and nature of the problems on this littoral combat ship are far more problematic than on other ships. Faulty welds, design, and ship construction are the root cause of many of this ship’s failings. These are not first of class issues; they are basic ship-building issues that appear to have been largely ignored on this ship.

[ Gee. We could have saved a lot of trouble by starting with this exchange.  POGO accuses the Navy of making changes that Congress can’t keep up with.  The Navy could have had some fun and just said “What do you mean?” or “Whose fault is that?’ but instead chose to detail why the LCS program is different. And from the Navy’s response we learn just HOW different the program is from previous programs (I had no idea how different anyway: sounds like a DARPA program that quickly turns into  production). The Navy details some of the ways the LCS had none of the advantages of previous classes (Aegis cruisers and destroyers) of ships and that those ships still had hurdles to overcome, then the Navy notes that the LCS ships are instrumented to find the kinds of things that might lurk in any design. This should be a hint to Freeman as to why the Navy apparently isn’t (and shouldn’t be?) too excited about the problems they’ve encountered. 
Freeman twists those observations into a “we’re not talking about the Aegis” snark and NOW he tells us that by ‘changes’ POGO meant the change from a downselect to one LCS to the continuation of both LCS designs. It turns out this is the one thing about the LCS I’ve watched with some interest.  
First we can throw out Freeman’s characterization of Navy decision-making concerning Congressional ability to keep up with the program and the change from a downselect to proceeding with a dual contractor approach. It is simplistic and reflects what I would call the Congressional Vanity POV (It was all about them!) found as part of a more extensive review of the issue in a Congressional  Research Service Report. Thus POGO’s carping over timing of requests and decisions in retrospect is pretty unoriginal as well as weak. Read the CRS report, and then ask yourself why it seems POGO would rather have the Navy going to Congress earlier with a half-baked plan, just to give Congress reason to refuse it because it was half-baked.  BTW: There were arguments being made as early as 2004 that the navy should buy two squadrons of competing designs and have them fight for supremacy. The ‘do we downselect’ or ‘do we continue with both designs’ question is hardly ‘new’    
Seems Freeman just can’t stop himself form asserting opinion as fact. He’s got the ‘reformer’ spirit within! With his last paragraph, he again tries to pass off ‘reformer’ POV as fact. Helping once again with a rewrite:

POGO agrees that what the Navy says is true: that all first of class ships will have problems. However, POGO believes the extent and nature of the problems on this littoral combat ship are far more problematic than on other ships. POGO believes Faulty welds, design, and ship construction are the root cause of many of this ship’s problems and are representative of failings in the program, design, and construction (that POGO believes should be seen as cause to kill this program? Notice the undeclared intent – we can only guess). POGO believes these are not first of class issues; POGO believes they are basic ship-building issues that appear to POGO to have been largely ignored on this ship
There. All better again]
FYI, and not that it matter one whit, I find the GD/Austal (LCS 2) design most appealing.
LCS 2. USS Independence (USN Photo)


Ben Freeman said...

Biting, but solid critique. As you can imagine, I disagree with much of it. But, nonetheless, learned much from your argument - thank you.

And, not that my opinion (even if stated as fact) matters either, but I too prefer the Austal variant.

Have a good day, and, again, thank you for your critique.

-Ben Freeman

SMSgt Mac said...

A plea from one Eagle (EC/WW) to another: turn back from the Dark Side before its too late!
(and I await the other shoe)