November 15, 2013
Credit: U.S. Navy
In the wake of a recent U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report sparked by Aviation Week Intelligence Network (AWIN) stories, the U.S. Navy is striving for better cost estimates for its future Littoral Combat Ships (LCS).
“In response to a recommendation in our July 2013 report, DOD now plans to do an independent cost estimate for the program before its next seaframe contract award in 2016,” GAO says in a recent for-official-use-only report, “Littoral Combat Ships, Navy Needs to Address Communication System Limitations and Obtain Additional Operational and Cost Data,” obtained by AWIN.
Such an estimate is important, GAO says. “If the Navy follows the LCS Plan of Action and Milestones, it may contract for the entire fleet of . . . LCS ships before actual operational information is obtained for both variants.”
The LCS comes in two variants. One is based on the LCS-1 USS Freedom design, featuring a steel monohull and aluminum deck, and is being built by a team led by Lockheed Martin. The other variant is an all-aluminum trimaran based on the LCS-2 Independence design, being built by a team led by Austal USA and General Dynamics.
The GAO notes: “The Navy plans to finalize its request for proposals for up to 28 additional LCS ships in late 2014, before it incorporates lessons learned from the USS Freedom deployment into the LCS CONOPS (concept of operations) or gains similar operational data for the Independence variant.”
The Navy expects to consider contract proposals for additional LCS ships in early 2015 and to finalize the contract award in early 2016. “Although DOD said that it would update the seaframe cost estimate, there is no requirement to do so prior to 2016,” GAO says.
But now the Pentagon has agreed to “identify actions and milestones to collect actual operational data on the second variant (Independence), and update operational support and sustainment cost estimates and strategy documents for both variants prior to contracting for additional LCS ships in 2016,” GAO says.
The GAO explains that such updated data could put the program in a new light, given some of the programmatic changes thus far, such as the increase in the number of crewmembers and shore support staff.
Part of the problems, GAO says, may be in the way the Navy calculated its initial cost estimates.