Monday, August 29, 2016

LCS: Icon of a Failed Era of Procurement Hubris

It is, as with most things, best in French;
"Personne n'est corrigé; personne n'a su ni rien oublier ni rien appendre".
Via the great diplomat, we have this beautifully borrowed phrase that wasn't actually his. The above quote is the original form he borrowed, it is believed, from a 1796 letter to Mallet du Pan by French naval officer Charles Louis Etienne, Chevalier de Panat.

The phrase was borrowed by better, so why not by a fellow naval officer today?

Let's translate this for our STEM buddies, as it is just about perfect when it comes to the LCS battles of the last decade plus;
"Nobody has been corrected; no one has known to forget, nor yet to learn anything."
LCS, the icon of a failed era of procurement hubris, provides us another opportunity to remind all who will listen what a millstone we have put around our Fleet and its leaders for the next few decades. The more I think about it, the more our procurement decisions from the last decade were of a Bourbon mindset. The dynasty, not the medicine - well, perhaps both.

After DivThu, I think I despise posts on LCS for the same reason; they are facts fighting against emotion. It is rare that one side will even listen to the other. My facts trump your feelings, and the excuses are beyond stale.

First thing; the "first in class" excuse no longer applies. This ship is over 1/3 of the way through its service life and the serial, sub-optimal performance only reinforce the facts at the pier and drydock.

Second, this is another in a huge pile of examples of how detached from operational reality this ship is from what it was designed to address. It can barely perform in peacetime conditions. War? Child please.

Is it the people, the equipment, or the process? With LCS, you always have to go in reverse order; always start with the process.

The process that brought this snake-bit concept to displace water brought a bag of equipment poorly suited for the job, and forced it on the Navy via a toxic command climate. The process that ignored centuries of evolution about how Sailors and their warships remain at sea and keep each other going. The process that, in spite of all clear and unbiased opinion outside the Iron Triangle, continued with a class of ship that eight years after commissioning Hull-1, still cannot successfully find a single mine, a single submarine, or engage any other warship of similar size with any chance of victory.

So there - we have the usual LCS tirade. Now, to the latest news.

Two articles that will get you started on the latest "of course" series of LCS rake-stepping, and the pull quotes below come from, are by Chris Cavas at Defense News and San LaGrone at USNI News;
In yet another blow for its seemingly perpetually-troubled littoral combat ship program, the US Navy revealed Sunday that one of two main propulsion diesel engines on the San Diego-based Freedom has been damaged so badly it either has to be completely rebuilt or replaced.

It’s the third time since December that a Freedom-class LCS has suffered a serious malfunction.
Word of Freedom’s casualty comes as USS Fort Worth (LCS-3) is in transit to San Diego following a separate propulsion causality in which operator error caused extensive damage to the LCS’ combing gear – the complex mechanism that links the output of the ship’s main propulsion diesels and the gas turbines to the ship’s water jets.
The Freedom’s latest problems began July 11 when a sailor noted a drain leaking into the bilge from a seawater pump seal attached to the ship’s No. 2 main propulsion diesel engine as the LCS was operating off Southern California. Sources familiar with the incident told Defense News the leak was plugged using a damage control plug.

Seawater then entered the engine’s lubrication oil system, said Lt. Rebecca Haggard, a spokesperson for San Diego-based Naval Surface Forces (SURFOR), but the ship continued to operate.

In a statement, SURFOR said Freedom returned to San Diego on July 13 on her own power to conduct repairs on a separate, unrelated issue and, while in port, carried out procedures to decontaminate the lube oil system of seawater. The Freedom then got underway on July 19 for more than a week of Rim of the Pacific Exercises off Southern California, returning to San Diego July 28.

But back in port, an investigation of the engine on Aug. 3 “found significant damage to the engine caused by rust and seawater,” SURFOR said. So many engine components were damaged that, SURFOR added, the engine “will need to be removed and rebuilt or replaced.”
The Navy’s top leadership is known to be especially unhappy with this latest incident.

“Given the engineering casualties on USS Freedom and USS Fort Worth, I believe improvements in engineering oversight and training are necessary," Rowden said in the SURFOR statement.

“The recently-completed LCS Review of manning, design, and training looked at a number of sailor performance and ownership factors, to include crew rotation, size and proficiency. From this work, I believe we will be able to make immediate changes to help reduce chance for future operator error. I am fully committed to ensuring that our ships and the sailors who man them have the proper tools and training they need to safely and effectively operate these ships.”

One naval analyst told USNI News on Sunday the casualty comes at a difficult time for the LCS program.

“Regardless of the cause, however, it comes at a sensitive time for the LCS program which still remains controversial both within the Navy and inside DoD,” Eric Wertheim, the author of the U.S. Naval Institute’s Combat Fleets of the World, told USNI News on Sunday.

“Eight years since the first unit of the class entered service, proponents and opponents on each side are still trying to figure out what the future of the LCS fleet will hold, how many ships should be built, where they should operate, and what types of missions they can perform. With all those questions still up in the air, any issues that arise can have an outsized impact on the future of the program.”
Bingo. These problems were identified over a decade ago here an other places. Why in 2016 are we only now getting to it? See Shipmate Etienne's quote above and the fallen nature of man.

We neither understand the concept of "sunk cost" or "opportunity cost" and as such we are building a fleet of vanity, buttressed by hope, spin, and the promise of post-retirement food troughs.

The world's largest navy awaits a new group of leaders that will clearly break with the errors of the past, return us to a solid foundation of fact based leadership, and demand a mastery of the fundamentals. 
Succisa Virescit

UPDATE: Host note: I cannot keep up with all the LCS fail around us this week. I have a paying gig to maintain. Consider this post the LCS free swim now that we have an even-numbered hobbled mid-Pacific. Imagine what it will be like when we have a fleet full of these Little Crappy Ships.

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