source : defensenexs.com
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LCS Future Pondered After Another Is Canceled
By [email]CHRISTOPHER P. CAVAS[/email]
U.S. Navy’s Nov. 1 decision to cancel another Littoral Combat Ship
(LCS) — one of General Dynamics’ two hulls — surprised many observers
in and around the service.
“We were flabbergasted,” said a Capitol Hill
source, one of many who had been repeatedly reassured that negotiations
would prove successful.
Killing LCS 4, which would have been General
Dynamics’ (GD) second aluminum-hulled trimaran, echoes last spring’s
decision to cancel rival Lockheed Martin’s second ship. Each
shipbuilder now is left with only one LCS under contract — Lockheed’s
steel-hulled USS Freedom (LCS 1) and GD’s USS Independence (LCS 2) —
which are to be tested by the fleet in 2009.
Both companies walked away from the Navy’s
efforts to change the next ships’ contracts from cost-plus to
fixed-price, rejecting the transfer of risk onto their shoulders.
Some in Congress applauded the Navy’s cost-control effort.
“While it’s disappointing that the decision had
to be made, I’m proud of the secretary for making the decision,” Rep.
Roscoe Bartlett, R-Md., ranking member of the House Seapower
subcommittee, said through a spokesperson.
While Navy officials continue to express strong
support for the LCS, the cancellation raised questions about the Navy’s
commitment to the program. The 55 LCS vessels make up about one-sixth
of the Navy’s 313-ship fleet plan.
“Cost growth in the LCS program has added
hundreds of millions of dollars to the amount of funding the Navy will
need each year between now and about 2016 to execute its 30-year
shipbuilding plan, which, other things held equal, has increased the
risks associated with implementing the plan,” said Ron O’Rourke, a
naval analyst with the Congressional Research Service. “I don’t think
it’s likely that the collapse of the LCS program from six
prior-year-funded ships down to two … will strike many people as an
example of stability.”Only two LCS vessels remain of the six under
contract or authorized at the beginning of this year
appropriated last year for two more ships in 2007 already have been
switched to pay for cost overruns on the first two ships.
The original price tag of $220 million apiece
has risen to $350 million to $375 million, Navy officials said. They
declined to reveal specific amounts, citing the competitive nature of
Plans for the program are in flux, said Allison
Stiller, deputy assistant secretary of the Navy for ship programs. “We
haven’t formulated the future acquisition strategy. We will be working
on that,” Stiller told reporters Nov. 1. “We are committed to the
program. We know what we need to do for the lead ships to get them
ready for evaluation. Now we need to look at the options.”
The Navy discovered cost growth on Lockheed’s
Freedom last fall, but the problem exploded at the beginning of this
year, when Delores Etter, the Navy’s top acquisition official, publicly
Within weeks, the Navy reassigned its top
shipbuilding officer and fired the program manager. In April, Navy
Secretary Donald Winter canceled Lockheed’s second ship.
GD’s LCS program also has been under intense
scrutiny, and the Navy began a cost-control effort on Sept. 19 to
restructure the contract for LCS 4 — GD’s second ship — to a
fixed-price basis. The Navy had specified 30 days for the negotiations,
and although no agreement was reached by Oct. 19, Winter felt confident
enough to extend the deadline.
But by late October, the Navy decided it
couldn’t live with the price gaps between it and GD and couldn’t abide
by a number of terms and conditions GD was insisting on. Winter decided
to kill the ship, and on the evening of Oct. 31, he began notifying key
members of Congress.
“I believe both parties made a good faith
effort to reach terms that more equitably balance both the cost and
risk,” Rear Adm. Chuck Goddard, program executive officer for ships,
told reporters Nov. 1. “Despite our mutual efforts, we could not come
to terms on a modified contract that was acceptable to both parties.”
Goddard added, “We hope and expect General
Dynamics and its team members will compete for future opportunities as
cost and risk in its design become better defined.”Potential Layoffs
First in line to feel the effects of the LCS 4
cancellation are the workers at Austal USA’s shipyard in Mobile, Ala.,
which is building the GD ships. Of the company’s 1,176 employees, about
two-thirds work on the LCS program, according to company spokesman Bill
“We won’t lay off anyone right now,” Pfister
said. “The impact from a layoff standpoint won’t hit us for nine or 12
months” — about the time the Independence is to be delivered.
Austal also has suspended plans to expand its
construction facilities. The company already built a two-bay facility
to build the ships — the Independence occupies one bay — and was to
build another facility as the program was to have ramped up, Pfister
Other workers in the shipyard are building a
large aluminum catamaran ferry for service in Hawaii — set to be
delivered in late 2009.
The company has no other orders, but “we’re
going to get more commercial work,” Pfister said, adding “we’re
disappointed” in the LCS decision. “We don’t think there are any
winners in that.”Door Opened for Northrop?Ironically, one shipbuilder who may benefit
from a potential collapse of the LCS program is Northrop Grumman
Northrop lost in the 2004 first round of the LCS design competition,
having offered a composite-hull design based on the 650-ton Swedish
But in January 2006, the company’s Electronic
Systems sector in Bethpage, N.Y., won a 10-year contract to be the
prime integrator for the LCS mission packages.
Its Ship Systems shipbuilding sector,
headquartered at Pascagoula, Miss., has developed a naval frigate
version of the U.S. Coast Guard’s National Security Cutter (NSC).
Sources said Northrop might be preparing a proposal, but a company official would not confirm such a plan.
The idea of adapting the Navy’s LCS for the
Coast Guard or Navy use of the Coast Guard’s NSC has been batting
around in naval and Congressional circles for some time, particularly
as the Coast Guard’s Deepwater program — of which the NSC is the first
large ship — has been criticized for its own management and
Many in Congress view collaboration between the
two services as having potential for keeping the lid on rising
shipbuilding costs. But the LCS, with its high speed and relatively
short endurance, might not make for an efficient Coast Guard cutter.The Navy’s new national maritime strategy
released Oct. 26, however, calls for more sustained presence in the
littorals, which one analyst said stresses endurance over speed.
“I wouldn’t have suggested this until I read
the Navy’s new strategy,” said Bob Work, a naval analyst with the
Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessment in Washington. “But if
you really believe maritime security is a big thing, a ship with a
12,000-nautical-mile range looks pretty good for the persistent patrols
that the strategy suggests.”
The NSC might be the answer to the Navy’s needs, Work said.
“You could change the name of the National
Security Cutter to the National Fleet Frigate and make it capable of
carrying the LCS modules,” he said.
An added bonus, he noted, is that the first NSC
is nearing completion. Adding up the Navy’s planned 55 LCS ships, the
Coast Guard’s planned eight NSCs and perhaps throwing in the 25 planned
Coast Guard Offshore Patrol Cutters would make a production run of 88
“You would really get the price down,” Work
said. “This is one option I think they should take a look at it if the
LCS program is in such a state of flux.”
l'us navy tente le tout pour le tout pour sauver le programme lcs, mais le programme deepwater des coast guards peut gener
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