The Navy wants to build platforms and systems but they don’t want to maintain, test, or fix what they’ve built. We’ve discussed this before but it’s becoming more and more obvious. The recently released 2014 Annual Report from Director, Operations, Testing and Evaluation makes several things crystal clear.
- Problems linger for multiple years – system after system in the report contains unresolved problems that have lingered for multiple years. The Navy wants to build shiny new toys but they don’t want to do the dirty work of wringing out the bugs and making the systems work.
- Refusal to report reliability data – this is a somewhat new development. The Navy is beginning to engage in a pattern of not reporting data. The EMALS and AAG reliability data that haven’t been reported for a year are a good example.
- Refusal to carry out tests – the Navy is showing a pattern of refusing to perform tests. The recent trend of refusing to conduct shock testing is an example as is the refusal to conduct ship self-defense tests in a realistic manner.
- Failure to fund required tests – many DOT&E required tests are simply not being funded.
- Failure to develop realistic threat drones and surrogates – this is a common theme among the various system reports. The Navy is happy to spend billions on a new submarine but won’t spend a few million to develop a realistic submarine threat surrogate. We lack realistic submarine, torpedo, and cruise/ballistic threat surrogates, among others. The Navy is building weapons that it has no way to test!
- Overdependence on simulation and overly optimistic simulations – the Navy has attempted to move away from physical testing and towards simulation testing. The problem is that the simulations are ridiculously optimistic, as pointed out throughout the DOT&E report. Everything works in simulation!
- Extremely high failure rate of advanced technology combined with insistence on concurrent development – the more advanced the technology, the higher the failure rate. That’s to be expected. However, the Navy’s obsession with concurrent production and development means that the failures are costing us twice (or many times more!) as we install, remove, and reinstall in an on-going pattern as one problem after another surfaces after construction.
- High failure rates due to lack of proper technical training for the crew – the lack of technical training is stunning. Again, we’re happy to spend billions on procurement of highly advanced technology but we’re utterly failing to train the operators to use the technology. The DOT&E report abounds with examples of failed or aborted tests due to lack of operator training.
- Lack of system documentation – hand in hand with the lack of training is the lack of system documentation. Documentation should be part of procurement (and, indeed, it is!) but it appears that while the Navy goes to great lengths to ensure delivery of the equipment they do not pursue delivery of the documentation with anywhere near the same degree of enthusiasm.
I didn’t bother citing specific examples. Frankly, the report abounds with examples and I don’t have the room to cite even a fraction of them. Read the report and you’ll easily find plenty of examples.
I can’t imagine how bad the Navy would be without the DOT&E group. They are the ones insisting that the Navy’s weapons and systems actually do what they’re supposed to. It’s clear from reading the report that, if left on their own, the Navy would skip from one new program to the next with little testing and we’d have a fleet of barely functioning equipment, much like the Soviets during the Cold War, if even that good. The only drawback to the DOT&E is that they don’t have the authority to dictate Navy testing and test support – they can only advise and monitor. Still, thank goodness for DOT&E !