The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has been working on a report on the LCS program and has now issued a draft version. Aviation week has apparently obtained a copy and has revealed some details from the report in a recent article on their website (1). It doesn’t sound like the report is going to be very complimentary about the program and, in fact, suggests that Congress “pause” funding of the program.
Here is an excerpt from the Aviation Week article which discusses how the Navy has changed their story and claims about the LCS over time as they’ve attempted to manipulate and adjust the program spin in response to the myriad problems that have cropped up. The italicized passages are quoted from the article.
Particularly galling to some in Congress is the report’s Table 5 – “Evolution of Navy Statements About Littoral Combat Ship Capability,” which chronicles the changing narrative of the ship’s concepts and capabilities.
What the table shows, Congressional sources say, is how the Navy has changed its tune throughout the program – so much so, that it may be difficult to trust what service officials have to say now, especially in light of some of the unknowns highlighted in the other tables detailing potential factors that could affect LCS costs and operations.
Here’s the gist of the GAO report Table 5:
Concept: LCS’s capability against adversaries
Early (2004-2008): Primarily developed for use in major combat operations. Will gain initial entry and provide assured access—or ability to enter contested spaces—and be employable and sustainable throughout the battlespace regardless of anti-access or area-denial environments.
Current (2011-2012): Current LCS weapon systems are under-performing and offer little chance of survival in a combat scenario. Not to be employed outside a benign, low-threat environment unless escorted by a multi-mission combatant providing credible anti-air, anti-surface, and anti-submarine protection.
Concept: How LCS will deploy
Early (2004-2008): Will be a self-sufficient combatant.
Current (2011-2012): Lacks the ability to operate independently in combat. Will have to be well protected by multi-mission combatants. Multiple LCSs will likely have to operate in a coordinated strike attack group fashion for mutual support.
Concept: How mission packages swaps will be utilized
Mission packages will be quickly swapped out in an expeditionary theater in a matter of days.
Current (2011-2012): Though a mission package can be swapped within 72 hours if all the equipment and personnel are in theater, swapping out mission packages overseas presents manning and potentially expensive logistical challenges. An LCS executing a package swap could be unavailable for between 12-29 days, and it may take 30-60 days or more for equipment and personnel to arrive in theater.
The examples cited in the article barely scratch the surface of the Navy’s ever-changing story about the LCS. The reason for the inconsistency in narrative is two-fold. First, the Navy never had a defined concept of operations for the LCS. It’s hard to maintain a story when there was never a story to begin with. In the absence of a defined concept, every person connected with the program has had their own idea of what the LCS would be – hardly surprising, then, that the various stories wouldn’t agree! Second, the almost continual succession of failures related to the program have led the Navy to continually change the narrative as a public relations exercise so as to maintain Congressional support for on-going funding.
The LCS story is written across a backdrop of the Navy’s lack of integrity and forthrightness. If these hints at the tenor of the GAO report are representative, the LCS has not sailed clear of stormy weather and may, in fact, be headed deeper into the storm. We’ll look closely at the full GAO report when it’s finalized and becomes publicly available.
(1) Aviation Week, NavWeek: Return of LCS Past, Michael Fabey,