Littoral Combatant: Actions Required to Address Significant Operational Challenges and Implement a Planned Sustainment Approach
What the GAO found
The Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) fleet has not demonstrated the operational capabilities it needs to fulfill its mission. Operational testing revealed several significant challenges, including the ship’s ability to defend itself against attack and the failure rates of mission-critical equipment. The Navy is also behind in developing the various mission modules – different configurations of key systems for different missions, such as mine countermeasures – for the LCS. In addition, GAO found that the LCS frequently encountered challenges during deployments. The Navy has begun taking steps to address some of these issues, but it does not have a comprehensive plan to address the various shortcomings identified during testing and deployments. Without a comprehensive plan to address deficiencies, conduct adequate testing of mission modules, and implement lessons learned from completed deployments, the LCS is still at risk of not being able to operate in its intended environment. Additionally, the gaps between desired and demonstrated capabilities have significant implications for the Navy’s ability to deploy the LCS as planned. Until the Navy conditions future operational deployments on progress made in bridging the gaps between desired and demonstrated capabilities, the LCS will continue to be combat dependent and require the protection of multi-mission combatants.
The Navy has implemented eight of the 10 recommendations from its 2016 review of the LCS program. Among other things, he implemented new approaches for the assignment and training of sailors for the LCS crew. However, the Navy faces challenges in implementing a revised maintenance approach, under which Navy personnel will perform some of the maintenance currently performed by contractors. Until the Navy determines the specific tasks that Navy personnel will perform, it may not be able to meet the maintenance needs of the LCS, thus hampering the ships’ ability to carry out their intended missions.
The Navy’s operating and support (O&S) cost estimates for the LCS do not take into account the financial implications of its revised maintenance approach. Specifically, the Navy has not assessed the financial implications of its revised maintenance approach and therefore does not have a clear picture of its impact on O&S costs. Some of the Navy’s actual O&S cost data is also incomplete and inaccurate. For example, the Navy has reported every O&S cost element for Marine Executives in its O&S Cost Management and Visibility database, but it has only reported the O&S cost element for maintenance for mission modules. Additionally, the Navy does not report maintenance costs separately for each mission module, but rather totals these costs for all mission modules and divides by the number of chassis in the fleet. Without complete and accurate cost data, the Navy risks not anticipating O&S cost increases that could create challenges in funding the LCS as planned or delivering capabilities when expected.
Finally, the Navy has not updated its O&S cost estimates to reflect its revised operational and sustainment concepts and has not incorporated actual cost data into some of its estimates. Without complete information on the cost of implementing the revised operational and sustainment concepts, and the use of actual cost data, the Navy will not be able to analyze the differences between estimates and real costs, important elements to identify and mitigate critical risks for the LCS. .
Why GAO Did This Study
The LCS is designed to operate in shallow waters close to shore, called littorals. The Navy estimates it will cost more than $60 billion to operate and support the 35 LCS it plans to build, including the 17 it has already delivered.
A House report accompanying a bill for the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2020 included a provision for the GAO to review the affordability and sustainability of LCS. This report examines the extent to which the Navy has (1) demonstrated that the LCS has the operational and combat capabilities to accomplish its missions; (2) implemented the recommendations of the 2016 Navy Review; and (3) updated its cost estimates to reflect revised operational and sustainment concepts.
The GAO reviewed Navy laws, regulations, and directives; analyzed LCS cost data for fiscal years 2009 to 2019; and interviewed relevant officials. This is a public version of a sensitive report that the GAO released in August 2021. Information that the Navy deemed sensitive has been omitted.