Thursday, August 23, 2012

LCS - More Oversight

Probably every military blog on the Internet has noted this but it's worth a brief comment ... 

The Navy has just established an oversight council of Flag Officers to ensure the LCS's successful introduction into the fleet.  The council was established via a memo from CNO Greenert dated 22-Aug-12.  Here is the memo. 

You'll recall that just a bit over a year ago the Navy went to the somewhat unusual length of creating a separate PEO LCS office under Adm. Murdoch specifically to focus attention on LCS and ensure its successful introduction into the fleet (wait a minute, didn't I just type that same sentence in the preceeding paragraph?!).

Given the blatant duplication of responsibility, is the new council a slap at an ineffective PEO, a recognition that the LCS is in that much trouble that it needs even more Admirals overseeing it, or something else?  I have no idea but it's clearly not a vote of confidence for Adm. Murdoch. 

I suspect that this is a reaction to signs of dwindling support for the LCS program both within the Navy and in Congress.  Remember, (as I understand it) the purchase contracts for the 10+10 buy is actually 1+1 with options for the remaining 18.  Is the Navy begining to feel pressure to terminate the program?  We can only wait and see.

What's next, double secret probation?  [Animal House reference for you fans of the movie]


  1. ComNavOps -
    Your line of inquiry is intriguing. I thought about Adm. Murdoch's history, his tour as a program manager in PEO IWS ended early when he replaced the dismissed first LCS PM. He set much of the direction for where LCS is today. He didn't have a tour in the ASN RDA office like most of the up and coming officers who manage ship programs. When he was selected as an Adm. he was assigned out of town to CFFC, again not the usual career path for the up and coming. He didn't stay there long before coming back to town for duty as the new PEO LCS. He's had a year and now he has serious adult supervision. As a comparison point I don't recall Adm. Syring getting this kind of help on recent Aegis problems between DC and the fleet.
    The number of program managers and PEOS in charge of LCS who's tours ended early is almost eerie. That doesn't tell us whether Adm. Murdoch is a man of character honesty and integrity but I suspect the major factor in all this is Adm. Greenert. He signed the LCS Council memo one year to the day from his last day as VCNO. One year before organizational adjustments or just a coincidence?

    1. James, this development is certainly open to a variety of interpretations and we'll just have to wait and see while it plays out.

      Your point about CNO Greenert is a good one. I think this CNO is dead set on remaking the Navy in his image. Unfortunately, it's not a good direction. Metaphorically, he's focused on the far future laser at the expense of the need to throw lead downrange today. The LCS exactly meets his vision, it's all but proven to be a monster size bust, and yet CNO is betting all-in on more of the same type of technology and modularity. This guy may well wind up being one of the most damaging CNOs in recent history.

    2. I actually think quite the opposite wrt CNO.

      Everything I have read and heard says that CNO Greenert is much more focused on the near-term than his predecessors.

      Look at the memo. Para 2 says that the LCS needs to be ready to fight on day 1. Has any other previous CNO said anything remotely like that when it comes to the LCS?


    3. Matt, there's walking it and there's talking it. Greenert says some good things (his three tenants, for instance), however, his actions belie his words. Ships are being retired prematurely, maintenance is a fiasco, JSF is breaking the bank, our ASW capability has atrophied, MCM is virtually non-existent, and so on, and instead of tackling those issues, today, he's focused on tomorrow's pie-in-the-sky modular, magic technology, most of which will never pan out. If he was objective and intelligent, he wouldn't be forming yet another oversight committee on LCS, he'd be cancelling it.

      I urge you to go back and read the post on CNO Greenert.

    4. But most of the issues you list are either inherited (ASW and MCM deterioration didn't happen overnight), outside of his control (JSF = joint program) or fraught with politicism (LCS = Undersecretary Work's baby.)

      I actually think CNO is fully prepared to walk away from JSF. And his recent Proceedings article ("Platforms over Payload") was taken by many as at a direct jab at the F-35.

      As to LCS - if you plan to cancel or curtail a major shipbuilding program, wouldn't it make sense to put the PEO on public notice before doing so?

      I am guardedly optimisitic when it comes to this CNO. He's got some very difficult decisions, and I think he is approaching them the right way.


    5. I also don't share your view that ASW capability is atrophing uniformly across the fleet.

      Naval aviation is introducting the MH-60R Seahawk and are about to get P-8A Poseidon - both of which should be very capable platforms.

      Virginia class SSN is also the best submarine ever built, although we might not be able to afford enough of them.

      I think the downward trend is largely in the surface community. DDGs are neither proficient nor experienced. And of course we are introducing LCS - you could not design a worse ship for ASW.

    6. Matt,

      You're quite right. The issues that CNO faces are, by and large, inherited. I don't judge him on that. I judge him on how he's dealing with them since he's been running things and I see very little positive and quite a bit negative.

      You say you think CNO is prepared to walk away from JSF. Maybe, but he hasn't.

      You suggest that he may be in the process of cancelling LCS. Maybe, but he hasn't.

      If he does these things (along with reconsituting the MCM capability, vastly improving maintenance, refocusing on ASW, etc.) I'll change my view of him. Until then, he's done nothing and appears to be pushing the Navy further out on the technology limb at the expense of current capability.

      You can be as hopeful as you want. Nothing wrong with that. Thus far, though, his actions offer little that's positive.

    7. Anon, ASW is at the lowest point it's been in decades. Your point that the decay is not uniform across the fleet is valid but all aspects are suffering.

      Virginia's may be the best sub ever built but the trend in overall SSN numbers is downward and will continue so for quite awhile. I call that atrophy. Remember, you can lose capability both technically and numerically. Also, the subs are being tasked with more responsibilities (Tomahawk land attack, SOF, surveillance, etc.) which dilutes the training time available for ASW. The days of trailing Soviet subs for real was the pinacle of submarine ASW prowess. The sub fleet has nowhere near that level of expertise now. That's atrophy.

      The P-8 may be an effective ASW aircraft (honestly, I don't know enough about it to judge) but it doesn't look like it's going to be acquired in sufficient numbers to be effective. We'll have to wait and see on that one.

      I've been told by people in the Navy that ASW exercises were being run without sonobuoys due to dwindling stocks. That's atrophy. On the plus side, the Navy just recently placed a giant order for new sonobuoys.

      You probably know that in many areas and in many exercises the Navy is not allowed to operate sonars due to environmental concerns and court orders from animal rights groups. Not being able to practice with your sonar is atrophy.

      I see the same glimmers of hope you do. New ASW equipment is begining to come to the fleet. Of course, that's only useful if the fleet devotes some serious training time on a regular basis. Is this the begining of a turnaround? We'll wait and see and hope for the best but for the moment the fleet's ASW capability is in a world of hurt.


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