JULY 29, 2013 — With the Navy's Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) acquisition program coming under scrutiny following publication of a critical GAO report (see earlier story), top Navy leadership including the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. Jonathan Greenert have been coming to the program's defense.
CNO Adm. Jonathan Greenert at Marinette Marine shipyard
In a Pentagon press briefing earlier this month, Admiral Greenert compared the LCS with debuts of previous first-in-class ships and said there was initial skepticism with those platforms too.
"My view is, what we are finding is not that significantly different from the Perry class of the ʻ60s and ʻ70s, the Spruance class of the ʻ70s, nor even the Arleigh Burke class when it comes to the size and the impact on it," he said.
"But," he added, "we need to be vigilant, we need to follow up, and we have work to do."
And on July 24 he toured the Marinette Marine Corporation shipyard to observe the progress of several Freedom-class variants of the LCS currently under construction.
During his tour, Admiral Greenert walked through several of the $74 million improved Marinette Marine shipbuilding facilities to see firsthand future LCSs: (LCS 5) Milwaukee, (LCS 7) Detroit, (LCS 9) Little Rock, and (LCS 11) Sioux City not only being built, but being built better with integrated feedback from industry and Sailors in the fleet.
President and CEO of Marinette Marine Chuck Goddard said efficiencies in the building process resulting from upgrades to the shipyard will drive down costs per unit of the LCS over time while the fleetʼs feedback is resulting in a more superior product for our sailors charged with protecting the worldʼs sea lanes.
"Iʼm very impressed," Admiral Greenert told a group of Marinette reporters following his tour of the shipyard.
Admiral Greenert is equally impressed by the communication between the LCS industry and sailors in the fleet whose valuable feedback, says a Navy News Service story "is enabling Marinette Marine to change designs and manufacturing processes as necessary to fix issues with current LCS models and prevent them from being integrated into future LCSs."
"We have a team effort," Admiral Greenert said about the sailors who operate the ships and the shipbuilders in Marinette Marine. "Their feedback and connection with what Freedom is undergoing, with what Fort Worth is undergoing back into the design is impressive and it turns quickly into the shipyard."
Admiral Greenert reiterated to the Marinette reporters that historically, it's not uncommon to have to modify a first-in-class ship's design once it becomes operational despite best efforts to fix and find all of the bugs during the testing period.
"It really isn't about the quality of the workmanship, I think the question is what decisions the Navy has made to build this type of ship, the decisions we collectively made as to how we were going to build them in sequence, design and changes, that's not unusual," he said. "We need to take them deliberately and seriously and we are in as much of a partnership as we can with the GAO."
Ultimately, the Navy is committed to the LCS," he said. "This class of ship is so important to us, for its modularity, its speed, its volume."