Since the day the Navy commissioned it, the Norfolk-based amphibious ship San Antonio has been plagued with costly defects. Five years later, it sits along the Elizabeth River unfit to deploy.That is the key. You get what you inspect. When this ship got underway, I said what many have said - the ship will do its job and be fixed - but on the back of its Sailors and with a metric butt-ton of money.
Now a report says that the Navy, as well as contractors who designed and built the vessel, bears blame for the problems.
Released publicly Thursday, the report details findings from a six-month Navy investigation. While it looked only at the San Antonio, the inquiry could help answer questions about defects aboard the four other ships in its class that are now in service, including the New York.
The first of the five to take to the sea, the San Antonio has suffered the worst of the problems. In its short life, the $1.8 billion, 25,000-ton vessel has been called in for several major repairs worth at least tens of millions of dollars.
But the Navy shares in the blame for failing to identify the flaws, the report says: If the government had properly overseen and inspected the vessel during construction, the problems could have been caught early.
Investigators also fault the San Antonio's crew for failing to uncover the defects before they caused major damage.
"Ship's force was slow to recognize lube oil contamination (because of) a variety of long-term issues," the report says. Specifically, it cites sailors who weren't properly trained and who didn't carry out vital systems checks.
Navy officials declined to discuss whether crew members were disciplined or consequences they could face.
"The chain of command has taken appropriate administrative action aboard San Antonio to hold accountable those responsible for the training and maintenance deficiencies aboard the ship," Naval Surface Force Atlantic said in a statement.
The report includes several pages detailing the training failures. The Navy requires 42 sailors aboard the San Antonio to complete a course on operating its engines; only three have. Fifty should have taken a class on the ship's lube oil system; only one has.
The defects do not have to do with the Sailors and leadership of the ship though - they are only trying survive with the equipment and work environment that senior leadership with their consultant-speak and transformationalist fever-dreams made for them.
This all comes from institutional addiction to happy talk. Just follow the LPD-17 tag below - people who have been involved with this program from the start have been telling me the problems and warning of what was going to happen from cost and maintenance. Eric makes a good point in the article,
Eric Wertheim, author and editor of the Naval Institute Guide to Combat Fleets of the World, said the Navy appears to be taking the problems seriously. "The Navy and the Defense Department should look at this as an example of how every step of the process can go wrong," he said. "Most of the problem seems to be with the shipbuilder, but the Navy's the one that really needs to figure how to stop this from happening again."Yes - we need an open table, Chatham House Rules dissection of this. The first three witnesses need to be Clark, Mullen, and Roughead. This is their baby.
Phil has some other thoughts worth your time as well.
The legacy of happy-talk and the Tiffany Navy.