GAO has a fascinating report out about the Navy’s acceptance of the first two LCSs despite significant uncompleted construction work (1). ComNavOps has reported on this before but this report contains the entire ugly story. The report describes the contract terms as they affect delivery of the ships and their acceptance by the Navy. It also identifies the responsible parties within the Navy at the various stages. For instance,
“During builder’s trials, inspectors from the Navy’s Supervisor of Shipbuilding, Conversion, and Repair (SUPSHIP) are generally responsible for observing and identifying deficiencies.”
“During acceptance trials, the responsibility for identifying deficiencies falls upon the Navy’s Board of Inspection and Survey (INSURV), an independent organization whose inspectors evaluate the newly constructed ship and report on its material condition to Congress and Navy leadership.”
INSURV conducts two inspections: one for preliminary acceptance and another following post-delivery outfitting and availability periods to determine final acceptance. Serious deficiencies are referred to as “starred” and must be corrected by the builder or waived by the Chief of Naval Operations.
Here’s the summary of results from the acceptance trials for LCS-1/2.
LCS-1 Acceptance Trial Part One
Newfound Starred Deficiencies = 21
Uninspected Systems = 63
Incomplete Certifications = 19
Incomplete Compartments = 2%
LCS-1 Acceptance Trial Part Two
Newfound Starred Deficiencies = 31
Uninspected Systems = Not Assessed
Incomplete Certifications = Not Assessed
Incomplete Compartments = Not Assessed
LCS-2 Acceptance Trial Part One
Newfound Starred Deficiencies = 39
Uninspected Systems = 83
Incomplete Certifications = 12
Incomplete Compartments = 31%
You’re probably thinking, this can’t be true. It must be another humor piece. No construction program could be this bad. Sadly, it’s not. This is real. Keep reading.
Both LCS-1 and LCS-2 were delivered and accepted by the Navy with major shortfalls in completeness and adherence to contract specifications. LCS-2 had 31% of its compartments not even finished!!! The report notes,
“We found that LCS 1 and LCS 2 were delivered with a large number of open deficiencies, the majority of which were determined to be attributable to the contractors. Our analysis found that over half of these deficiencies were closed after the ships were delivered to the Navy and were being outfitted, but other deficiencies continued to be unresolved one year after delivery—a point at which the Navy had taken final acceptance of LCS 1 and LCS 2.”
Somewhere around half the deficiencies remained unresolved a year after delivery? How could that happen? Here’s the explanation.
“Under the cost-reimbursement contracts, the LCS 1 and LCS 2 prime contractors were only required to give their best efforts to complete quality-related activities—along with the other work specified in the contracts—up to each contract’s estimated cost. These efforts resulted in LCS 1 and LCS 2 not completing final contract trials, and LCS 2 not finishing its acceptance trials—resulting in increased knowledge gaps related to ship performance and deficiencies. In addition, the Navy did not achieve the quality standards on LCS 1 and LCS 2 that are outlined in its own ship acceptance policy, although the policy also contains several notable flexibilities to these standards. In particular, the policy recognizes situations where the Navy may defer work until after delivery and final acceptances and affords the Chief of Naval Operations the power to waive certain quality standards outlined in the policy. The Navy relied extensively on these waivers to facilitate its trials and acceptance processes for LCS 1 and LCS 2.”
The report points out that to this day, almost five years after delivery, LCS-2 has not competed acceptance trials!!! Clearly, the Navy has no intention of ever doing so.
The report points out that the Navy complied with all relevant rules and laws in accepting the significantly incomplete ships through the extensive use of waivers. Technical compliance does not, however, excuse horrific program management. None of us would pay full price for an incomplete car and yet that’s exactly what the Navy did multiple times. By the way, the Navy did the exact same thing with the entire production run of the LPD-17 class. No lessons learned by this Navy!
The Navy didn't conduct acceptance trials on the LCS, they conducted waiver trials.
Read the report. It paints an absolutely stunning portrait of incompetence and mismanagement by Navy leadership.
(1) Government Accountability Office, “LITTORAL COMBAT SHIP - Navy Complied with Regulations in Accepting Two Lead Ships, but Quality Problems Persisted after Delivery”, September 2014, GAO-14-827