Tuesday, October 20, 2015

LCS MCM Independent Review Panel?

You’ve probably heard by now that the Navy is setting up an independent panel to review the LCS’ remote minehunting system.  As you know, the LCS MCM module is plagued by performance and reliability failures and the Navy has pushed the next system evaluation back by several months.

Why would the Navy need an independent review panel?  For starters, the independent review organization, the DOT&E, has already told them, in great detail, what the problems with the MCM module are.  Further, does the Navy not have people who can evaluate the MCM module internally?  If not, they shouldn't be in the warfighting business.  

So, why do they need this panel?  Well, they're trying to get approval and funding from Congress to buy more of these modules despite the horrific reliability and performance problems that the independent review organization, the DOT&E, have documented.  You want more, even though it doesn't work??!  Well, that's what an "independent review panel" will do if you can get the panel to say that all is well - the "stamp of approval" will give you the cover to buy more modules that don't work.

So, now we know why the Navy wants an "independent review panel".

But wait, you say, won't an independent review panel find the same problems the Navy has already seen for itself and that the DOT&E has thoroughly documented?  How will the Navy get an independent review panel to go along with their desire to buy more non-functional modules?

You can see what's coming, can't you?

So, what does an “independent” review panel suggest to you?  A panel made up of people outside the direct chain of command?  I mean, it would have to be outside the chain of command or else it wouldn’t be independent, would it? 

Well, the Navy has thus far refused to describe the panel or its specific tasking other than to say it will be headed by Rear Adm. David Johnson, program executive officer - submarines (PEO - Submarines). Navy Times noted that Johnson is nominated for a third star and is slated to be the next deputy to the Navy’s acquisition directorate. 

Does that sound at all independent to you?  The guy is in the chain of command, nominated for a another star, and slated for a cushy new job.  Does that sound like an independent person or does that sound like someone totally beholden to the Navy and dependent on pleasing his Navy superiors?

Seemingly unrelated side note:  Does PEO - Submarines not have enough to do that he needs to be spending time rubber stamping a non-functional LCS MCM module?

With all that said, I am now going to amaze and astound you by fearlessly predicting the result of the panel’s review:  it will find that everything is just fine and the Navy should proceed full speed with further module acquisitions!!!!!

What?  Wait!  No way.  Who could know the future like that?  How can I possibly make that prediction without even knowing the panel’s tasking or remaining members?  Because the head of the panel is in the chain of command that wants the MCM module approved.  Seriously, what do you think this guy will conclude?

Independent panel?  Not even remotely independent!


  1. Well if you bring someone in who has no vested interest in the status quo, why that would be completely unpredictable.

    You ... you might get a David Packard in there who makes commonsense suggestions like we should prototype before we buy. How shocking and simple!

    How could the Admirals, Defense Contractors, and Congresspeople justify their bloated salaries and power if the solution is so simple? ANd they just might ...jut MIGHT mind you, ask if it so simple why didn't you think of it.

    So it is in the MICC's interest to keep this with the experts that brought us this mess to begin with.

  2. The panel is independent of independence

  3. Off subject but related.

    How about this news? Saudi Arabia gets what sounds like the closest a LCS could be to a real viable frigate, VLS, Harpoon, sonar, anti air, some existing today teeth/defense options, not vapor wear .


    1. I had heard that was likely coming but hadn't seen the announcement. Thanks for the heads up! That version is almost certainly going to be one of the elongated vessels that were proposed several years ago. The LCS will be significantly larger.

    2. I was about to say; without an elongation or a plug of some sort I don't see how it can fit all those things within existing margins.

    3. If I had the choice though.... at least it has some combat power.

      I still think one of our biggest need is a long range ASW escort that can be built in numbers. Add in some ability to defend itself against air attacks and a radar controlled gun and call it good. Submarines are starting to proliferate.

      Had we started with that, and built that, then started a separate MCM ship at the same time, and built that, might we have what we need by now instead of a hull looking for a job?

  4. This post has some many point to discuss, I not sure where to start

    1) Who watches the watchman. Who checks the output of DOT&E? They can be just as biased as any other organization in government, subject to internal politics, personal feuds, and just plan screwed up personnel. Yet some of you assume that its work is beyond examination because it is "independent."

    2)When you choose a panel to examine some technical program, wouldn't you want panel member who knows something about the subject. You as so concern about Adm. Johnson rank and position you forgot he also a USN nuclear submarine officer, which mean he is also an engineer, either by education or experience. And that since the part of the MMS is with it's unmanned sub, you might want person like him on the panel.

    3) Speaking of Rank, Who is less likely to be intimidated by outsider, a Rear Adm or some Lt. Cmdr.?

    4) And don't you think that providing the Navy with an effect mine warfare mission module is important enough for high ranking officers to examine that program when it having problems?

    1. 1. GLof, if you have any data or evidence whatsoever that DOT&E is making errors or in any way misbehaving, please share it. All the evidence I see makes it very clear that DOT&E is doing their job and doing it well. This blog is based on facts and logic. If you're going to suggest that DOT&E is biased or "bad" then do so with facts.

      2. Of course the panel needs subject matter experts. However, a submarine officer/engineer has no particular knowledge of MCM or unmanned vehicles. I have engineering background but I have no specialized knowledge of MCM. A sub officer is a nuclear engineer by training and experience - again, not an MCM expert. The point was that making the leader of the panel part of the chain of command ensures a lack of independence.

      3. Susceptibility to intimidation is a personal characteristic. It is not magically conferred by rank. An outside is unlikely to intimidate anyone.

      4. Yes and no. How does higher rank confer a better ability to examine a problem? It doesn't. In fact, a lower ranking specialist would be a better choice. The MCM issue already has a PEO, CNO, and other high ranking officers looking at it and they've failed miserably. Adding one more flag officer to the mix won't magically fix the problem.


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