Sunday, June 17, 2012

Concurrency - Building Without a Design!

The Navy has its share of problems.  Some, such as budget limitations, are imposed from the outside and are largely outside the Navy’s control.  Others are self-inflicted such as maintenance, manning, and training.

One of worst self-inflicted problems is that of concurrency.  This is a relatively new problem and is the practice of trying to build a ship or aircraft while also designing it at the same time.  For most of us, this is an instant head-scratcher which simply defies understanding.  Almost instinctively, we know that you must have a finished design prior to building.  Otherwise, how do you know what to build?  The short answer is that you don’t.  What happens is that you wind up having to rebuild sections of the ship/plane as the design changes.

For anyone who’s unsure what I’m describing, consider the example of building a car without a design.  You’re pretty sure there’s some basic things you need so you figure to get a leg up by starting the construction.  Unfortunately, part way through you decide that you want to place the engine in the rear instead of the front so you have to tear out the rear seats, re-design the back end to support the engine, reroute the various gas and electrical lines and then re-install the removed seats somewhere else.  In essence, you’ll wind up building the car two or three times over.  An expensive proposition, right?

Well,  that’s exactly what the Navy has been doing with the LCS, JSF (F-35), LPD-17, DDG-1000, and so forth.  The results of this approach have been nothing short of disastrous.

Anybody Know Where This Piece Goes?

The LCS has tripled in price with most of that increase due to the changing design.  Indeed, the changes still continue.  Here are some comments from the CRS April 2012 report on the LCS,

“The Navy started construction of LCS 1 and 2 without a stable design and has had to incorporate design and production changes into follow-on seaframes. When the LCS 1 and 2 construction contracts were awarded, the basic and functional design of each seaframe were respectively only 20 percent and 15 percent complete.” (2)

Designs that were only 20% and 15% complete at the start of construction?  So, that’s what, the keel that was designed and that’s about it?

Concurrency is not just a ship phenomenon.  The JSF suffers from concurrency, as well.  From the recent GAO report, comes this summary statement,

“Most of the instability in the program has been and continues to be the result of highly concurrent development, testing, and production activities.    In addition to contract overruns, concurrency costs of at least $373 million have been incurred on production aircraft to correct deficiencies found in testing. The manufacturing process is still absorbing higher than expected number of engineering changes resulting from flight testing, changes which are expected to persist at elevated levels into 2019, making it difficult to achieve efficient production rates. More design and manufacturing changes are expected as testing continues, bringing risks for more contract overruns and concurrency costs. Even with the substantial reductions in near-term production quantities, DOD still plans to procure 365 aircraft for $69 billion before developmental flight tests are completed.” (1)
This says that 365 aircraft will be purchased before testing has been completed to identify what changes are needed in the final design.  All 365 aircraft will need to be reworked to incorporate the changes and that will cost additional money to remove existing equipment and then add the new or modified equipment. 

So, we see that the practice of concurrency results in triple payments;  one, to build it the first time, two, to remove installed equipment to accommodate the changes, and three, installation of the new or modified equipment.  Can you think of a less efficient way to build something?  And it shows!  The cost of the LCS, LPD, JSF, etc. have ballooned beyond belief.  At what point and with what twisted logic did this seem like a good idea to someone in the Navy???

(1)   Government Accountability Office (GAO), “Joint Strike Fighter, Restructuring Added Resources and Reduced Risk, but Concurrency Is Still a Major Concern”, Statement of Michael J. Sullivan, Director Acquisition and Sourcing Management, Testimony Before the Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces, Committee on Armed Services, House of Representatives, GAO-12-525T

(2)   Congressional Research Services (CRS), “Navy Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) Program: Background, Issues, and Options for Congress”, Ronald O'Rourke, April 6, 2012


  1. Concurrency for DDG 1000? You need to check your facts.

  2. DDG-1000 is one of the "better" programs but only by comparison with programs that have set the bar so low. From the CRS Report of Mar 2010 that discusses the DDG-51 and DDG-1000 programs,

    "The design was 88 percent complete at the start
    of lead ship construction ..."

    So, yes, the ship is being built concurrent with design efforts. Worse, several of the critical technologies are still under development during construction and changes will have to be made to accomodate modifications as development of those technologies continues. From the same report, a discussion of the risk in the deckhouse design included this statement,

    "The Navy planned to fully demonstrate the integrated deckhouse prior to ship construction start in February 2009, but land-based testing was delayed. Testing is now scheduled to complete by March 2010—over a year after deckhouse construction began."

    Again, concurrent development and construction. Further, from the Mar 2012 GAO Defense Acquisitions report,

    "... all three ships are in or will soon be in fabrication. However, the program is still conducting development work on several of its critical technologies and most of them will not be fully mature and demonstrated in a realistic environment until after their installation on the ship."

    And, discussing the impact of development on construction,

    "According to program officials, the shipbuilder had to rework some areas on the first ship ..."

    "The DDG 1000 program is still conducting development work on several of its critical technologies."

    "... the potential for design changes remains until its critical technologies are fully mature."

    This is concurrency; perhaps not as bad as other programs but still the same flawed approach that is causing program delays and costing taxpayers money.

    I hope that answered your question. If you still believe otherwise, please share with us whatever you're aware of that leads you to believe that concurrency is not happening with the DDG-1000 program.

    Thanks for checking in.


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