GAO: Navy still accepting ships with many defects

JULY 14, 2017 — A GAO report finds that the Navy continues to accept ships with a substantial number of defects and that not all of those defects are rectified by the time the ships enter the fleet after their post-delivery period.

Entitled "NAVY SHIPBUILDING: Policy Changes Needed to Improve the Post-Delivery Process and Ship Quality," the report assesses the extent to which the Navy (1) provides complete and quality ships to the fleet, (2) has a ship delivery policy that supports those efforts, and (3) reports ship quality and completeness to Congress. .

GAO reviewed six ships valued at $6.3 billion that had completed the post-delivery period, and found they were provided to the fleet with varying degrees of incomplete work and quality problems. GAO used three quality assurance metrics, identified by Navy program offices, to evaluate the completeness of the six ships—LPD 25, LHA 6, DDG 112, Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) 3 and 4, and SSN 782—at delivery and also at the time each ship was provided to the fleet.

Although the Navy resolved many of the defects by the end of the post-delivery period, GAO says that quality problems persisted and work was incomplete when the selected ships were turned over to the operational fleet.

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Fleet officials reported varying levels of concern with the overall quality and completeness of the ships, such as with unreliable equipment or a need for more intense maintenance than expected.

For CVN 78 and DDG 1000, the Navy plans to complete significantly more work and testing during the post-delivery period than the other six ships GAO reviewed. As such, says GAO, these ships are at a greater risk of being provided to the fleet at the end of their post-delivery periods with incomplete construction work and unknowns about quality.

According to GAO, the Navy's ship delivery policy does not facilitate a process that provides complete and quality ships to the fleet and practices do not comport with policy. The policy emphasizes that ships should be defect-free and mission-capable, but lacks clarity regarding what defects should be corrected and by when. Without a clear policy, Navy program offices define their own standards of quality and completeness, which are not always consistent.

Further, because the Navy's Board of Inspection and Survey (INSURV) does not inspect ships at the end of the post-delivery period, it is not in a position to verify each ship's readiness for the fleet, as required by Navy policy. The Navy has not assessed the costs and benefits of ensuring INSURV does this. Addressing these policy concerns would improve the likelihood of identifying and correcting deficiencies before fleet introduction and increase consistency in how the Navy defines quality.

GAO says that the Navy does not use consistent definitions for key milestones in its reports to Congress—such as delivery or Initial Operational Capability (IOC)—and, therefore, these milestones are not as informative as they could be regarding ship quality and completeness. For example, the Navy has routinely declared IOC on new ship classes without having demonstrated that ships are able to perform mission operations—contrary to Department of Defense (DOD) guidance, which, for nearly all acquisition models, generally states that IOC should be declared only after successful operational testing that demonstrates performance.

What GAO Recommends

The Navy should revise its ship delivery policy to identify what kinds of defects should be corrected and by when and study how to best ensure that INSURV verifies ships. Also, the Navy should reflect in its reports to Congress key milestones and consistent definitions in line with DOD policy. DOD did not concur with two recommendations, partially concurred with a third, and fully agreed with a fourth. GAO says it stands by its recommendations, "which will help ensure that complete and quality ships are provided to the fleet and that Congress is provided with meaningful information on ship status."

Download the GAO report HERE

 

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