Friday, August 17, 2012

The LCS Sausage Factory

Here is a title that isn't shocking to anyone on the front porch;

U.S. Navy Officials Suppressed Bad LCS-1 Test Results
Mike Faybey's article at AviationLeak is worth a full read, so is POGO's say about it.

Nothing really shocking in some respects, especially the testing information - but what is more interesting is what this tells us about the culture.

There are two things that I think are the most important in the article. They are things that perhaps the general public does not fully get a grasp of, and sadly those inside the lifelines know so well that they are an accepted part of the atmosphere.

First, like we discussed with Chris Cavas on Midrats last Sunday - we hurt our credibility on The Hill a lot last decade that we are only now starting to get back - and this does not help at all.
“I am disturbed by the Navy’s selective disclosure about what is going on in this program,” U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), a member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said after Aviation Week shared text of the emails with her staff. “If these had been good results, they would’ve hurried to the Hill to ring out the good news. Congress has the responsibility and obligation to be as knowledgeable as possible about the ships we purchase for our military forces. Most importantly, we must know whether these multibillion dollar programs will meet the operational needs and safety requirements for our troops.”
“These emails seem to indicate test results were manipulated to hide the true level of risk in the LCS program,” she says. “This raises disturbing questions about the integrity of the information Congress received, and whether we are being given the information we need to be good custodians of taxpayer dollars. Congress must stop relying upon the Navy and Navsea to reassure us that these problems are being adequately addressed and should instead get an independent assessment of this program and its management.”

Others have questioned the timing of the Navy proposal. “Did the timing of the Navy’s proposal provide Congress with enough time to adequately assess the relative merits of the downselect strategy and the dual-award strategy?” the Congressional Research Service (CRS) asks.
Second, we continue to suffer not only the cancer of happy-talk, but the ongoing suppression of anything that is not the best case scenario; anything that does not sound the most positive note. As a result, we no longer act like we are a customer of the military-industrial complex, but part of it - their apologists.
U.S. Navy emails and other documents suggest that officials muzzled bad test results for the first Littoral Combat Ship (LCS-1) variant, the USS Freedom, at a crucial time in the program’s development, when the service was considering which seaframe to pick for the $30 billion-plus fleet.

Top program officers for the ship and at Naval Sea Systems Command (Navsea) told subordinates to avoid certain language in the test-result reports because of concerns over the downselect decision, the documents show. One naval officer said in an email he would delete the offensive wording of the report.
Cmdr. James Garner, the Freedom’s commanding officer, told Cmdr. Matt Weber, the ship’s executive officer: “Good brief. Thanks for putting this together. I had a healthy conversation with Dan Brintzinghoffer today and he asked that we not use terms directional instability or the like in any briefings or discussions. The bottom line is concern with respect to the down select, but the definition of the term is also in question. I removed that in the brief but kept the bullets that discuss what we observed.”
In late 2010, when the service was pushing for the dual-block buy, one Navsea official noted in an email that a tight leash was being kept on the trial test results from the fall, saying, “The bottom line is that they didn’t like what the results said.” In other emails, Navy officials said they were told not to brief the test results, including one warning that Navy officials were apparently concerned about possible shipbuilder lawsuits.

Aviation Week sources familiar with Navy shipboard operations say it is not uncommon for service officers to tailor reports to make ships and shipboard programs appear in the best possible light. There is an understanding that officers up and down the ranks do not want bad reports, which could put a stain on their own careers. But what is uncommon, those sources say, is such a frank and harsh report as this one on the LCS-1. Censored reports are also uncommon, they say, but this is only because such negative reports are rare in the first place.
What have these habits brought us in the last 10-years or so?

Ponder that.

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