Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Missing Parts

We’ve discussed the Navy’s disturbing and increasing practice of deferring portions of ship construction until post-delivery in order to evade Congressional cost caps and make construction costs look better than they are.  The Navy is accepting incomplete ships and then adding the missing portions at some later date … in theory.  The problem is that once a ship has been delivered the urgency, and the money, to complete it drop off drastically. 

Next Navy website reported on this scheme for the Ford class carrier Kennedy, CVN-79 (1).

“The Navy also expects to reduce the CVN-79 cost by as much as $250 million by deferring installation of a number of systems, including the MK 53 Electronic Warfare (EW) Decoy Launching System (DLS), also known as NULKA, built by Lititz, PA-based Sechan Electronics; Surface Ship Torpedo Defense System; and the Surface Electronic Warfare Improvement Program Block 3, a technology-development program that is intended to provide electronic attack capability.”

Note:  The quote appears in the article but is sourced from an website report which is behind a paywall. 

I note this development because it is part of the Navy’s pattern of focusing on new construction to the detriment of maintenance and readiness.  Partially completed ships simply contribute to the hollowing of the fleet.  The Navy receives shiny new ships that make the fleet count look good but are missing significant portions of their combat capability.  You’ll recall that the LPD-17’s were delivered with millions of man-hours of work left incomplete.  The LCS’s were delivered with entire compartments left incomplete.  If the missing portions were quickly added back after delivery that would be OK (neglecting the accounting fraud and disdain for Congressional cost caps) but fragmentary reports that I get suggest that the missing work is not being promptly completed.  I have seen indications that the LPD-17 class and at least the earlier LCS have remained incomplete for long periods or may still be incomplete.  I cannot document the degree of lingering incompleteness so consider this a cautionary note rather than a fully documented issue.  I will continue to keep an eye out for more information about deferred construction issues.

(1)Next Navy, “Navy Strips CVN-79 Of Close-In AAW Enablers”, Admin, 5-Dec-2014,


  1. The following is just my opinion:
    I mentioned before that the military should be held to GAAP, even if the rest of the government isn't. We need economic transparency. (To be fair, we must have some in that you are able to get this data, however difficult that is). I still stand by that.

    It seems like the military, particularly the Navy, is trying to play the weird game of an abused middle manager. It will promise everything to its bosses and tell them what they want to hear; then make unsustainable choices/ abuse the underlings in order to show the facade of delivery.

    I remember reading a story years ago, might be an urban legend, about a shoe factory in the Soviet Union. The manager was given a quota that was super high. Because of the politics, he didn't say 'Can't be done'. Instead he made the quota by making all size 13 shoes; the easiest and fastest ones his machines could crank out.

    The result had no bearing on reality and didn't help the consumers much, but it made his quota.

    Here we have the Navy playing numbers games to report to Congress and the White House 'All Good!' when in fact they are hollowing the fleet by all appearances. They don't want to say 'No, what you want can't be done with our resources'.

    So its a political Win Win. Congress gets to say its being strong on defense and economically conservative, and the Navy gets to say its fulfilling its mission; when in reality Congress isn't being told it has to truncate its missions or increase its funding, and the Navy is grinding down the current fleet and puffing up numbers with paper capability.

    This also helps those who have the 'Our fleet is 85x larger then the next 25 combined!!!' a bone to chew. To them; an LCS or a 'Burke with out AShM's, or a Carrier that's uncompleted is a fully functioning part of the battle line. Equal to a fully fitted out and functional unit of a peer. The reality is different.

    Its craziness.

    The truth would be hard to take. We'd realize that we spend billions and aren't getting what we thought we had. But it would be the beginning to achieving a fleet that can realize what we want to do. We'd either spend more money and try to ferret out corruption, or truncate missions and try to ferret out corruption.

  2. One more thing, touching on our navy's fascnation with new construction. I'd read about how some commander wants more naval units in Europe to help deal with ISIS/Russia, and that the Navy is concerned about the number of hulls it can spare.

    Boy. Be nice to have some Spruances we could pull out of mothballs if we needed them, wouldn't it? Even a Spruance with most of the technology it had when it was retired would be a valuable asset.

    1. Shame more Fletchers weren't saved as mothballed museum ships!

    2. You know, I found it ironic you brought up[ Spruance, she like your other ships were delivered. In fact many USN ships, especially the first class were incomplete when turn over to the USN. Many new ship types are to carry new systems that are not yet available. Example, Spruance's NSS system. Fletcher's 40mms, an numerous other occasions.

      This is of course not only reasons, many time the wrong shipyard is chosen, other times, their is a lack of skilled works (the current shortage of marine electricians, pipefitters, and wrights. ) And finally mother nature some times get involved.

      What I trying to tell you is this is a ongoing problem with the USN, and not something new. What we need to is make sure the builder is working to their best, and not trying to delay the delivery in hope of extra money.

    3. There is a world of difference between delivery of a ship that is missing a piece of equipment that is unavailable and delivery of a ship whose basic compartments are unfinished. The LPD-17, for example, was delivered with well over a million man-hours of incomplete labor missing. That's not an issue with a missing piece of equipment.

      There is also a huge difference between accepting a ship that is complete in every respect except for an unavailable piece of equipment and KNOWINGLY and INTENTIONALLY deferring work in order to manipulate accounting practices. The Navy is now engaged in intentional incompleteness on a large scale. To the best of my knowledge, this is something new.

      What we need to do is insist that the Navy abide by Congressional cost caps, hold builders to the contracts, and force the Navy to only accept complete ships under penalty of future budget reductions.

  3. The DoD track record on getting accounting systems that can pass an audit is criminal. Literally criminal as Congress has set repeated dates with no visible progress having been made.

    This is EXACTLY what the LCS did on the first couple of ships. The Mission Package Office bought ship equipment in order to keep the expended cost down. Lord only knows what kinda of screwy logic was used to justify that.

    Read some of these stories and you can see why ANYONE who is outside the beltway gets noticed in the election cycle. The ones inside the beltway are in on it up to their eyeballs and see nothing wrong with it.

  4. What is astounding I would argue over the past couple of decades has been the self-inflicted nature of America's problems.

  5. “Fitted for but not with” we call it over here. Air defence destroyers put out to sea without Phalanx or Harpoon, only for them to show up a couple of years later.

    It’s become a bit of a comedic phrase.

    Luckily here the politicians and layman are suitably badly informed that as long as you call the Invincible class a “through deck cruiser”, no body apparently notices it’s an aircraft carrier?

    Right now we are playing a hilarious game where we are all pretending the Type 26 is a 4000 tonne “basic” frigate costing £250 mill. Even though the latest design is just 2 meters shorter than the 8000 tonne Daring. The budget for 13 is £12.5 billion and the equipment fit just boggles the mind.

    Having said that once contracts are signed we are ALL OVER budget and delivery overruns thanks to the tabloids. And this actually seems to have been helping.

    Luckily Politicians and private companies alike hate bad PR.


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