September 28, 2022

ACN Center

Area Control Network

Littoral Combat Ship: Actions Needed to Address Significant Operational Challenges and Implement Planned Sustainment Approach

26 min read

What GAO Found

The Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) fleet has not demonstrated the operational capabilities it needs to perform its mission. Operational testing has found several significant challenges, including the ship’s ability to defend itself if attacked and failure rates of mission-essential equipment. The Navy is also behind schedule 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 has frequently encountered challenges during deployments. The Navy has begun to take steps to address some of these issues, but it does not have a comprehensive plan to address the various deficiencies identified during testing and deployments. Without a comprehensive plan to address deficiencies, perform adequate testing of the mission modules, and implement lessons learned from completed deployments, the LCS will remain at risk of being unable to operate in its intended environment. Further, gaps between desired and demonstrated capabilities have substantial implications for the Navy’s ability to deploy the LCS as intended. Until the Navy makes future operational deployments contingent on progress in addressing gaps between desired and demonstrated capabilities, the LCS will continue to be dependent in combat and require protection by multi-mission combatants.

The Navy has implemented eight of the 10 recommendations from its 2016 Review of the LCS program. Among other things, it has implemented new approaches for assigning and training sailors for the LCS crew. However, the Navy is facing challenges in implementing a revised maintenance approach, under which Navy personnel will perform some maintenance currently being conducted by contractors. Until the Navy determines the specific tasks Navy personnel will perform, it risks not being able to meet the maintenance needs of the LCS, thus hindering the ships’ ability to carry out their intended missions.

The Navy’s operating and support (O&S) cost estimates for the LCS do not account for the cost implications of its revised maintenance approach. Specifically, the Navy has not assessed the cost implications of its revised maintenance approach, and thus lacks a clear picture of its impact on O&S costs. Some of the Navy’s O&S actual cost data are also incomplete and inaccurate. For example, the Navy reported on each O&S cost element for the seaframes in its Visibility and Management of Operating and Support Costs database, but it reported only on the maintenance cost element for the mission modules. Further, the Navy does not report maintenance costs separately for each mission module, but instead totals those costs for all mission modules and divides by the number of seaframes in the fleet. Without complete and accurate cost data, the Navy is at risk of failing to anticipate O&S cost increases that could create challenges in funding LCS as intended 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 actual costs—important elements for identifying and mitigating critical risks to the LCS.

Why GAO Did This Study

The LCS is designed to operate in shallow waters close to shore—known as the littorals. The Navy estimates it will cost over $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 GAO to review the LCS’s affordability and sustainability. This report examines the extent to which the Navy has (1) demonstrated that the LCS has the operational and warfighting capabilities to perform its missions; (2) implemented the recommendations in the Navy’s 2016 Review; and (3) updated its cost estimates to account for revised operational and sustainment concepts.

GAO reviewed relevant laws, regulations, Navy guidance; analyzed LCS cost data for fiscal years 2009 to 2019; and interviewed relevant officials. This is a public version of a sensitive report that GAO issued in August 2021. Information that the Navy deemed sensitive has been omitted.

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  • Personnel Vetting: Actions Needed to Implement Reforms, Address Challenges, and Improve Planning
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found The Security, Suitability, and Credentialing Performance Accountability Council (PAC) Principals—comprising the Deputy Director for Management of the Office of Management and Budget, the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), the Director of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), and the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence and Security—have made progress in implementing Trusted Workforce 2.0, which is a reform of personnel vetting processes. The PAC Principals reduced a backlog of investigations, have begun to develop a policy framework for a new approach to personnel vetting, and have begun to develop needed information technology (IT) systems. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) has formalized requirements to enroll the eligible national security population in continuous evaluation (CE), but has not assessed program performance. CE entails enrolling employees in IT systems that conduct automated record checks on a frequent basis. As of March 2021, about three-quarters of the eligible national security population in executive branch agencies were enrolled in a CE system, according to ODNI officials. In 2017 GAO recommended that ODNI develop performance measures to evaluate CE and a plan to address its impact on agency resources. ODNI concurred with GAO’s recommendation but has delayed taking actions in response and will not do so until CE is fully implemented, according to ODNI officials. This lack of progress may warrant congressional consideration, as it could limit ODNI’s and congressional decision-makers’ ability to assess the effectiveness and impact of continuous evaluation. The Department of Defense (DOD) does not have a reliable schedule to help manage the National Background Investigation Services (NBIS) system. DOD has been developing NBIS since 2016, and DOD plans to replace the IT systems it currently uses to manage the background investigation process with NBIS. GAO assessed the NBIS schedule using GAO best practices and found it did not meet the characteristics of a reliable schedule (see table). By aligning the NBIS schedule with the characteristics of a reliable schedule, DOD could improve the likelihood of completing NBIS on schedule and improve decision-making during the program’s development. Table: Extent to Which NBIS Schedule Meets Best Practices Characteristics of a reliable schedule GAO assessment of the characteristic Comprehensive Partially met Controlled Partially met Well-constructed Minimally met Credible Minimally met Source: GAO analysis of information for the National Background Investigation Services (NBIS) system. | GAO-22-104093 Further, DOD has taken limited strategic workforce planning steps for its entire personnel vetting workforce because it has not established a milestone for doing so. By establishing a milestone, DOD would create an accountability mechanism to complete its planning, which would help it determine the right mix of skills and competencies needed to effectively accomplish the personnel vetting mission. Why GAO Did This Study Personnel vetting helps protect the nation’s interests by aiming to establish and maintain trust in the federal workforce. High-quality vetting processes can reduce the risk of unauthorized disclosure of classified information. In 2018 GAO placed the government-wide personnel security clearance process on its High-Risk List due to a lack of performance measures and issues with IT systems. This report evaluates, among other things, the extent to which the PAC Principals have implemented Trusted Workforce 2.0; ODNI has formalized continuous evaluation and assessed program performance; and DOD has planned for the IT and workforce needed to support its personnel vetting mission. To conduct this work, GAO analyzed relevant documentation, interviewed officials from the agencies represented by the four PAC Principals, and collected and reviewed data on continuous evaluation. GAO also assessed information collected against GAO leading practices on performance measures and project schedules, and evaluated DOD’s actions against a DOD instruction on workforce planning.

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