I’ve documented the Navy’s increasing use of deferred construction to avoid cost caps and obscure costs. The concept is that ships are accepted incomplete and the remaining construction is completed during post-delivery availabilities using other funds that are not tracked as construction costs.
The latest example is the Zumwalt, DDG-1000, which, according to the DOT&E 2015 annual report, will be accepted in an incomplete state by the Navy and transferred to the West Coast in 2016. DOT&E states,
“After the ship arrives on the West Coast, it will begin an 18-month post-delivery availability to complete installation, integration, and shipyard testing of mission systems. The Navy plans to conduct a second Acceptance Trial when that availability has been completed …”
A second Acceptance Trial? Isn’t a ship supposed to be accepted by the Navy only after construction is complete? 18 Months of additional construction after delivery? This is obscene.
Now, let me be fair. I don’t know whether this was part of the original plan of construction and is fully funded by Congress as part of the original costs and schedule or whether this is part of the accounting gimmicks the Navy has become so fond of. If it’s the former and the costs are all above board then I’m left to wonder, why not simply complete the ship prior to delivery like every other ship? If it’s the latter then this is despicable.
Moving on, the Navy continues to reject combat related testing - Full Ship Shock Trial (FSST), in this case. As DOT&E documents,
“The Navy removed funding for the planned Full Ship Shock Trial (FSST) on DDG 1000 in September 2014, unilaterally deciding to conduct the event on DDG 1002. In October 2015, the Navy revised their decision and agreed to conduct FSST (specific ship to be determined) prior to the first deployment of any DDG 1000 Zumwalt class destroyer.”
Did you get that? The Navy unilaterally decided not to conduct shock trials until the last ship of the class! That not only removes any possibility of finding and correcting problems in other ships of the class but it removes the possibility of anyone questioning the Zumwalt program and threatening funding. That, of course, is the real reason the Navy is resisting shock trials on all its ships. The Navy would rather risk ships and sailors in combat than risk funding due to bad PR from testing.
The Navy reversed their decision only after it became clear that DOT&E has SecDef’s ear and the Navy decided they didn’t want yet another public spanking.
Is FSST important? As DOT&E summarizes it,
“Conducting FSST on DDG 1000 is critical to finding and correcting failures in mission-critical capabilities prior to the classes first deployment and prior to placing this class of ships in harm’s way. FSSTs routinely uncover mission-critical vulnerabilities that were not identified by component testing, analysis, and/or modeling and simulation alone.”
Further, the amount of new technology, to say nothing of the unique hull form, demand shock testing because they have not been tested in previous ships.
“All three ships of the DDG 1000 Zumwalt class have in common a significant amount of new designs, including the unique wave-piercing tumblehome hull form, as well as the new Integrated Power System, Total Ship Computing Environment (software, equipment and infrastructure), Integrated Undersea Warfare System, Peripheral Vertical Launching System, the Advanced Gun System, and the associated automated magazines. These systems and equipment have not been subjected to shock on previous ship classes. Moreover, the previously untried automation and small crew for a ship this size, limit the sailors’ ability to conduct repairs to enable recovery from shock-induced damage.” [emphasis added]
It couldn’t be any simpler or clearer than that and yet the Navy continues to fight testing.
The Navy’s policies and decisions are becoming increasingly bizarre and the Zumwalt class is just the latest recipient of the effects of those decisions.