Monday, July 09, 2007

$840 million over isn't the real costs

If you have not read what I have had to say over the last few years about the LPD-17, review here.

It is so bad that SECNAV Winter is coming out public.
THE HIGHLY TOUTED nerve center of the new, $1.8 billion amphibious ship San Antonio is fraught with computer hardware crashes that could cripple operations.

The ship lacks basic safety equipment, such as hand rails and reliable guns to battle close-in attacks.

In all, Navy inspectors found 30 major flaws aboard the San Antonio, according to an internal report obtained by The Virginian-Pilot.

Despite the deficiencies, the Navy has earmarked $13 billion to purchase nine amphibious ships in the San Antonio class.

The report reflects some of the same problems disclosed by The Pilot in July 2005. Two years later, the San Antonio is still incomplete and $840 million over budget.

The LPD-17 class of ships, or landing platform dock, replaces older amphibious ships used to deliver Marines and their equipment, including aircraft, into combat. The San Antonio is the first ship in the new class.

Secretary of the Navy Donald Winter criticized shipbuilder Northrop Grumman Ship Systems for substandard work and, in a letter last week, questioned the future of amphibious and destroyer ship programs under contract with the company.

“By taking delivery of incomplete ships with serious quality problems, the Fleet has suffered unacceptable delays in obtaining deployable assets,” Winter wrote to Ronald Sugar, Northrop Grumman’s chief executive officer.

Two years after accepting the San Antonio, “the Navy still does not have a mission capable LPD ship,” Winter wrote.
Yes. Amen, and hallelujah!

I asked for it before, and I will ask for it again. We need more heads on pikes. Not just for this, but for DDG-1000 and LCS as well. Not just the token 1 or 2 star. There are SES who need to be shown the door. Those SES and their gaggle of sycophantic Senior Officer fellow travelers babble Bu11shi1t Bingo from their 2-week MBA "Up With People" holiday but do not want to be held accountable the way their counterparts in industry would be. Heck, college athletics holds their senior leadership under a stronger accountability framework than the US Navy.

Firings should continue until clear thinking, direct communication, honest self-appraisal, and shipbuilding improve. It works in that order.

Almost two years ago, I wrote this.
Here is a question at your next "Ask the Admiral" meet and greet; how many of these problems are going to be thrown on the back of Skippers and Sailors to fix, a la USS Kennedy, and then blame them when they can't get blood out of a turnip?
That is the real cost. The Sailors of the USS SAN ANTONIO are breaking their backs, careers, and morale in order to fix the mistakes of corruption, incompetence, poor leadership, and the fetid spawn of Happy Talk and failed theory.

And yes Shipmates, there are always problems with first in class - but can we all agree that this is an exceptional case?
Bill Glenn, a spokesman for the company’s shipbuilding division in Mississippi, said in a statement that the San Antonio is a “revolutionary (ed note: I am so sick of "revolutionary" and "transformational" they have lost all meaning. They are a crutch to avoid actually describing the revolution or what it is transforming into - an old crutch excuse at that) first-in-class U.S. Navy amphibious ship.”

Responding to the myriad problems found by Navy inspectors, he said the amphibious class “continues to improve and mature as lessons learned on early ships are rolled into follow ships.”

Capt. Bill Galinis, the Navy’s program manager for the LPD-17 class, said in an interview that engineering problems are common for the first ship built in a new class.

“Lead ships are difficult,” he said. Despite the equipment failures, he said the ship is “absolutely safe.”

“It would not have been accepted by the Navy if the ship was not safe,” he said.

One veteran naval analyst, Norman Polmar, said other first-in-class amphibious ships have never been so flawed when they joined the fleet.

“These are basically troop transport ships,” he said in an interview. “We’ve been building these ships for 65 years.”

The Navy accepted the San Antonio from the shipbuilder in July 2005. Two other ship manufacturers worked on the vessel before the companies were consolidated into Northrop Grumman.

When it reached the fleet, Navy inspectors found “poor construction and craftsmanship standards,” according to an earlier report.

In March 2006, chief of naval operations Adm. Mike Mullen also attacked Northrop Grumman over its work quality. The average cost per ship has risen 50 percent over original estimates, according to the Navy.

Polmar said “the entire program should be stopped right now.”
Can we agree that with the data points we have with LCS and DDG-1000 that we now have a trendline? Can we agree that, "Doctor, doctor, it hurts when I do this!" is sometimes best fixed with the doctor saying, "Then don't do that!"

Let us once again though take the chance to praise that which deserves praise. SECNAV, keep stroking - the Fleet is with you.

And Hat Tip to my "Left Coast dude," "San Antonio Spy," Sid, Galrahn, Springbored and other readers that kept leaving not-so-subtle hints that I needed to bring this up again.

To be honest, it just depresses me to see this train wreck happening like it is. Many people warned about this. Many - but they were treated the same way as those who years ago warned that you can't make a Graff Spee sized warship "stealthy" in the Littorals, or that the ACS on the PPT would not be able to make mission, make altitude, or for that matter get off the ground.

All those in senior leadership were promoted and given awards - never held to account. You get what you inspect - and we are gundecking our integrity with Happy Talk and hope for those jobs at LMT, GD, and BA.

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