Thursday, December 17, 2015

Oh, There's LCS News? Go Get the Gibbets.

When is it time to beat up on LCS? Well, anytime.

Now that everyone is finally going Salamander, let's do a little paragraph by paragraph of kicking the handicapped. Why? Well ... what more can I say?
The US Navy's fight to buy 52 variants of its littoral combat ship (LCS) from two shipbuilders may have taken a fatal blow this week after the secretary of defense directed the service to cap its buy at 40 ships and pick only one supplier. The directive also orders the Navy to buy only one ship annually over the next four years, down from three per year.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter, in a Dec. 14 memo to Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, told the Navy to "reduce the planned LCS/FF procurement from 52 to 40, creating a 1-1-1-1-2 profile, for eight fewer ships in the FYDP, and then downselect to one variant by FY 2019."
I owe Ash Carter another beer. This isn't PLAN SALAMANDER, but this a compromise that I can live with. Fewer is better. He seems to understand sunk cost more than most. Good. It looks like we are going to do something more useful with the money.
Carter, in the Dec. 14 memo, directs the Navy to reallocate savings from the LCS/FF cuts to buy more F/A-18 and F-35 aircraft, more SM-6 surface-to-air missiles, and support Virginia Payload Module (VPM) development for future Virginia-class submarines.
Read all of Chris Cavas's article at DefenseNews - but now I'm going to rage a little against the machine, if you would be so kind to indulge me in a little self-serving preening as well;
The directive to cut the LCS comes in the face of strenuous Navy objections. The service has argued that building a ship takes much longer than ordering a new aircraft or missile.
Well Big Navy, this is your fault, Shipmate. You elected to create a "too big to fail" shipbuilding program that had no Plan-B when LCS proved what people started to say over a decade ago. You did that in order to meet you own selfish career goals - the needs of the warfighter be damned. You decided to throw more money and hard work of Sailors at a program that was known to be a failure by everyone you refused to listen to. No, scratch that - those you eliminated from the conversation. 

You did it because you were more loyal to people than to service - and you created a command climate that demanded happy talk. In your arrogance, you did all you could do for your reasons, not the needs of the Navy decades after you started wallowing in the food trough in your post-Navy career in the belly of the beast you once defended your Sailors from. There is no reason why we don't have a different sub-6,000T class of warship under construction other than systemic and rewarded almost Ottoman levels of bureaucratic, ossified professional malpractice.
"It's unfortunate that we find ourselves in this situation, because the Navy needs both an increase in ship numbers and a bump in warfighting capability," the defense official said Dec. 16. "In this case there is no right or wrong answer."
What does that second part even mean? Sh1t or get off the pot. We don't just need numbers (however, the reason we have Commanders commanding warships of 100+/- has everything to do with CDR Command numbers so the surface community can make more CAPT) we need numbers that can do something besides feeding money into a corrupt military industrial complex. Making CDR Commands and creating as little bang for the most buck? Sure, LCS is C1 in those two Primary Mission Areas.
The Navy has long argued it needs ship numbers to keep up worldwide posture and presence. The fleet today stands at 272 ships, but the latest fleet plan shows a rise to 308 ships in the 2020s. The LCS fleet is a major component in keeping to that goal.
A single barely partially mission capable LCS cannot even conduct presence OPS without hundreds of support staff in foreign ports - and one LCS is about as imposing as a USCG medium endurance cutter; and has a worse paint job. It's posture is one of a tubercular asthmatic. It couldn't even fight against a WWII Q-Ship.
Two years ago, the Navy fought hard to fend off LCS cuts. Mabus personally made his case to Hagel to beat back acting defense under secretary Christine Fox's attempt to cut the program. Mabus saved the ships, but Hagel countered with a directive to develop a more heavily armed frigate version. The Navy is working through decisions of the frigate variant, and is expected to make some of those details public in the president's 2017 budget submission to Congress.
We should all have a small shrine to Christine Fox. The fact that she does not have Mabus's job should make us all weep for our collective loss.
The Pentagon's Office of Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation (CAPE) also has repeatedly evaluated the program, often proposing alternative designs. At one point, CAPE reportedly favored a version of Norway's 5,400-ton Spanish-designed Fridtjof Nansen-class missile frigates fitted with a lightweight Aegis combat system.
Oh really, Nansen eh? Isn't that cute? That was called for first ... when was it? That is right, over eight years ago.
"In the last two months, the third deck has gone in two directions, generally to cut the program," said the Pentagon source, speaking of Carter's offices on the building's third floor.

"In the last year we went through a study to upgrade the ship, make it more capable. Now in CAPE some are arguing for a less-capable hull."
Additionally, the Pentagon source said, "the cuts will have industrial base impacts. And we are sending a message to Saudi, for example, of our confidence in the ship."
Of course we are. The message is clear. No one has any confidence in this ship. Why should they?

As for the industrial base? Well, sucks to be you. This was all foretold. Sure, I started pounding on this Little Crappy Ship in '05, but that was only after reading critiques by others written years earlier. Even at NPGS. 

Fix it as best as you can - but know where the blame is. Building ships that are death traps for our Sailors is not worth your Italian owned shipyard.
One political arena where the cuts are likely to quickly reverberate is in the presidential election. Most Republican candidates have cited a shrinking Navy is a critical need that needs to be addressed, and the factually-correct claim that "the Navy is the smallest since it's been since World War I" has become almost a mantra. A Democratic budget that reduces ship numbers is likely to become a lightning rod.
You are over thinking it. Done correctly - keeping LCS this long could easily be crafted as an albatross to wrap around the Democrat defense policy leadership - but that isn't what is important.

What do you want? Resources going to LCS that can't fight their way our of anything, or one DDG-51? For now, I'll take the DDG-51. Want something smaller and more affordable? PLAN SALAMANDER has been there for a very long time. The only thing getting in our way is hidebound thinking, bad programmatics, and worse egos.

It is all there. Follow the LCS tag - the posts started in Sept. 05 on LCS. If you don't have time for that, you can read this Executive Summary from almost three years ago, "OPTION 24" from 2.5 yrs ago, or "Beers With Don" from half a decade ago - though I'd start from the beginning.

Again, never before has so much money brought so little capability from so many ships. Overdue, but for now all praise SECDEF Carter. He saved us from having to buy, man, train, and equip another dozen+ of these embarrassing ships.

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