When you do the math on the LCS program it all adds up to disaster. Back in April, the Navy cancelled LCS-3 for being over budget. If the current version of the Fy08 defense bill holds, and everyone believes it will, the Senate Appropriations committee has cancelled LCS-4. The Navy Times has the details:
Senate appropriators unanimously approved a $459.3 billion defense spending bill for 2008. That’s $3.8 billion less than President Bush requested for fiscal 2008, which begins Oct. 1.
In July, the House Appropriations Committee passed a $459.6 billion defense spending bill for 2008. Differences between the two bills will be resolved by a conference committee made up of members from both houses of Congress.
During a Senate Appropriations Committee meeting Wednesday, Shelby complained that the Senate version of the 2008 budget eliminates $910.5 million that the Navy had requested for the Littoral Combat Ship program.
Because of spiraling costs, the Navy canceled the second Lockheed Martin ship last April. Now Senate appropriators have voted to cancel the second Austal-General Dynamics ship.
This blog covered the Senate Armed Services Committee vote back in June, noting that the reduction would allow for the construction of only 1 of the 3 planned LCS for FY08. So what does this latest series of decisions mean? Well, through FY08 there was supposed to be 7 Littoral Combat Ships built from FY05 - FY08, but instead there will 3.
- LCS-1 - Delivery expected 2008
- LCS-2 - Delivery expected 2008
- LCS-3 - Canceled by Navy
- LCS-4 - Canceled by Congress
- LCS-5 - Projected to be funded FY08
- LCS-6 - Appears Unfunded FY08
- LCS-7 - Appears Unfunded FY08
OUCH. The US Navy 21st century transformational fleet didn't simply steer off coarse, it rammed the lighthouse. When a ships Captain runs the ship aground, there is usually an investigation and the Captain is almost always relieved of command. What then do we say about Admiralty that has run Fleet acquisition into the ground? To date the Navy has fired a few low level managers, at what point can the people making the big decisions take responsibility for an irresponsible fleet design. It's time to start over, from scratch if necessary.
Things are going to get a lot worse before they get better. The DDG-1000s are approved and funded based on the Navy budget number. This is going to be hugely problematic in the future, as the CBO pointed out last month.
The Navy’s estimate for the two lead ships of the DDG-1000 class is equivalent to about $230 million (in 2008 dollars) per thousand tons of lightship displacement (the weight of the ship without its fuel, payload, or crew). That figure is smaller than the cost of the lead DDG-51 class destroyer or the lead Ticonderoga class cruiser (in FY08 dollars). CBO’s estimate for the first two DDG-1000s—which equals $380 million per housand tons—is based on the cost of the lead DDG-51, adjusted for differences in the size of the two types of ships.
At the same time, the Navy’s 2008 budget submission to the Congress estimates the cost of building the seventh DDG-1000 in 2013 at about $2.1 billion (in 2013 dollars). Deflated to 2008 dollars (using the inflation index for shipbuilding that the Navy provided to CBO), that estimate equals about $1.6 billion—or the same as for an additional DDG-51, which would have the benefit of substantial efficiencies and lessons learned from the 62 models built previously. The lightship displacement of the DDG-1000 is about 5,000 tons greater than that of the DDG-51s under construction today. In effect, the Navy’s estimates imply that those 5,000 extra tons, as well as the 10 new technologies to be incorporated into the DDG-1000 class, will be free.
If you ask me, CDR Salamander is optimistic, he thinks the Navy will stay above 200 ships, but keep in mind the only thing we have learned regarding the Analysis of Alternatives to be released in November is a proposal to make 5 of the 19 planned CG(X) 10,000 tons heavier with nuclear power, which seems to indicate the Navy is looking to go larger and more expensive on the final leg of the future "transformational" fleet, following the same coarse as the other 21st century transformational programs. That tends to imply fewer DDG(X) replacements for the 62 DDG-51s.
As Captain Smith said in his August Proceedings article, if this is what Rumsfeld meant by changing to "think out of the box" with Transformation, it is passed time to jump right back into the box before it's too late.