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Congress Urges Probe, Answers on LCS

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

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Alleging “lack of transparency” by the Navy, members of Congress are demanding an accounting regarding new revelations of widespread problems with the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) program.

A House Armed Services Committee panel has approved a last-minute amendment to the 2013 national defense budget bill, that would require Navy leaders to provide a “comprehensive briefing” on the LCS program.

 A four-inch hull crack that allowed in water and led to significant corrosion on the USS Freedom

 Naval Surface Warfare Center

The Project on Government Oversight cited an internal Navy report that documented 17 cracks in the LCS-1, including a four-inch hull crack that allowed in water and led to significant corrosion.

The Seapower Subcommittee amendment, by Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA), says the Navy has “not adequately informed Congress to the full extent possible on [LCS] program deficiencies, including mechanical and structural failures.”

“This simply makes the Navy come to us and explain all the problems [and] all the good things about the LCS we need to know to conduct proper oversight,” Hunter told the committee during the 15-minute hearing. “The Navy needs to be more forthcoming with us.”

Meanwhile, the Republican and Democratic heads of the Senate Armed Services Committee called Monday (April 30) for a Government Accountability Office (GAO) review of the program.

‘What’s Going On’

“We just want to know what’s going on,” Hunter told AOL Defense after the House subcommittee amendment was approved Thursday (April 26).

The amendment followed the release of a detailed new report by the independent Project on Government Oversight (POGO) that documented previously unreported cracks, “rampant corrosion” and other problems with the Navy’s next-generation combat ships.

 From left, Sens. John McCain (R-AZ), Carl Levin (D-MI),  Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA),  and Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA)
Demanding Answers: From left, Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Carl Levin (D-MI) have asked the General Accountability Office to investigate the Navy program, while Reps. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) and Hank Johnson (D-GA) want to hear directly from the service.

POGO said the Navy had withheld information about the $120 billion program from Department of Defense’s own independent Director of Operational Test and Evaluation.

The Navy dismissed the POGO report as old news and said it had addressed the problems.

However, Hunter told AOL Defense: “I didn’t realize the Navy had been so restrictive in its reporting even with DoD.”

‘Failure to Respond’

The amendment was approved unanimously on a voice vote. The supporters included Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA), who said the Navy had failed “to respond to his own inquiries about the program,” AOL Defense reported.

The LCS program is initially building 10 ships of two variants. Both lines are behind schedule, over budget and have reported problems with their lead ships.

The POGO report focused on the $357.5 million lead ship (LCS-1) in the so-called Freedom variant, a 377-foot, steel-and-aluminum hulled model built by Lockheed Martin and home-ported in Hunter’s district of San Diego.

POGO says the problems with the LCS-1 have been far worse than the Navy has admitted publicly, with “640 chargeable equipment failures” between its November 2008 commissioning and the summer of 2011.

‘Flawed Designs and Failed Equipment’

“POGO has obtained a number of documents showing that Lockheed Martin’s USS Freedom (LCS-1, the first LCS ship) has been plagued by flawed designs and failed equipment since being commissioned, has at least 17 known cracks, and has repeatedly been beset by engine-related failures,” POGO reported.

“On average, then, something on the ship failed on two out of every three days.”

 Lockheed Martin’s Freedom variant

U.S. Navy / Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Nathan Laird

Lockheed Martin’s Freedom variant has “serious problems with critical ship-wide systems, including rampant corrosion and flooding,” the report said.

The problems included a complete power outage that left the ship “adrift at sea” during a major drug-trafficking bust involving five tons of cocaine, nine suspected drug smugglers and two drug vessels.

The report also noted that problems had hampered the ship’s operating speed and that even the Chief of Naval Operations had questioned the ship’s survivability in combat.

The report urged Congress to, if nothing else, eliminate one of the program’s two variants—an idea that drew Johnson’s interest.

Johnson told the subcommittee that he had asked the Navy to estimate the savings from choosing a single design. Despite being promised answers in February, he has received none, AOL Defense reported.

Hunter’s amendment said that despite Navy testimony before Congress, the service had shown an overall “lack of transparency” is discussing the ships’ problems.

Senators Demand Audit

Meanwhile Monday, Senate Armed Services leaders John McCain (R-AZ) and Carl Levin (D-MI) sent a letter to the GAO, asking for another review of the program. The request includes a review of problems with the ship’s frame and its three mission configurations, the newspaper The Hill reported in a blog Monday.

GAO looked at the program several years ago and reported in 2010 that “early deployment” of the vessel had limited its time for operational testing.

McCain also cited concerns that the ship had been deployed without completing testing, “as well as questions about construction of the ship getting out of sync in the coming years,” The Hill reported.

   

Tagged categories: Corrosion; Maintenance coating work; Maintenance programs; Marine; Marine Coatings; Shipyards; U.S. Navy

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (5/2/2012, 8:25 AM)

I am still surprised every time I read it that the Navy went with a (partially) Aluminum combat ship. Britain learned this the hard way during the Falklands war - aluminum ships are pretty easy for the enemy to ignite, and darn hard to extinguish once burning.


Comment from Leon Curry, (5/2/2012, 9:30 AM)

Are you aware that half of our fleet CG class and FFG class ships to say the least are both half steel half aluminum. The underwater hulls are steel and from the main deck up they are constructed of aluminum. I could be wrong but I dont think so anyway but the superstructure of most of our carriers are aluminum as well.


Comment from jesse chasteen, (5/2/2012, 12:11 PM)

I was part of the team that did the first batch of certs for the blasters and painters at one of the facilities building the first two LCS versions. I have been reading all the articles about the issues being encountered. I vividly remember being impressed with the main propulsion systems and the incredible amount of thrust created to move an approximately 400 foot vessel. This could be an underlying cause for the cracking. I also have read that the initial design eliminated a satisfactory Cathodic Protection System. The later has supposedly been addressed. I am a believer in the lessons learned school of thought, instead of Senate investigations after the fact, why not implement aThird Party look at design plans prior to bid and make sure that apples are apples and oranges are oranges. In other words get a much more realistic idea of what it should cost if you do it right the first time.


Comment from William Feliciano, (5/2/2012, 3:11 PM)

It appears that cracking is only one of the issues...the original article stated that multiple systems were failing, which leads me to believe its more than just structural/material. It seems more like poor system integration/design. Yes, 3rd party review, if impartial, would have been very beneficial here.


Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (5/3/2012, 8:36 AM)

Leon, the Oliver Hazard Perry FFGs and Ticonderoga CGs were designed (and some already in service) pre-Falklands.


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