It Doesn’t Add Up

Danger Room senior reporter Spencer Ackerman recently won the 2012 National Magazine Award for Reporting in Digital media. Here’s one of his newest articles, as published on January 16, 2013, and it shows just how perceptive this man is. The headline is an eye-opener: “Navy’s $ 670 Million Fighting Ship is ‘Not Expected to Be Survivable,’ Pentagon Says”. And here’s what he wrote:

“In less than two months, the Navy will send the first of its newest class of fighting ships on its first major deployment overseas. Problem is, according to the Pentagon’s chief weapons tester, the Navy will be deploying the USS Freedom before knowing if the so-called Littoral Combat Ship can survive, um, combat. And what the Navy does know about the ship isn’t encouraging: Among other problems, its guns don’t work right.

“That’s the judgment of J. Michael Gilmore, the Defense Department’s director of operational test and evaluation, in an annual study sent to Congress on Friday and formally released Tuesday. Gilmore’s bottom line is that the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) is still ‘not expected to be survivable’ in combat. His office will punt on conducting a ‘Total Ship Survivability Test’ for the first two LCSs to give the Navy time to complete a ‘pre-trial damage scenario analysis.’ In other words, the Freedom will head on its first big mission abroad – maritime policing and counter-piracy around Singapore – without passing a crucial exam.

“The systems the LCSs will carry, from their weapons to their sensors, compound the problem. The helicopters scheduled to be aboard the ship can’t tow its mine-hunting sensors, so the Navy is going to rely on robots instead – only the robots won’t be ready for years. And the faster the ship goes, the less accurate its guns become.

“In fairness, the point of operational testing is to uncover and flag flaws in the military’s expensive weapon systems. And first-in-class ships often have kinks that are worked out in later vessels. Plus, it’s not like the Navy is rushing the Freedom to fight World War III. The local pirates there would never be confused for a serious navy. But the flaws Gilmore identifies go to some of the core missions behind LCS’ existence: to fight close to shore, at high speeds; and to clear minefields.

“These words have haunted the Navy ever since Gilmore’s office uttered them in December 2011: ‘LCS is not expected to be survivable in a hostile combat environment.’ At a Navy expo in 2012, Secretary Ray Mabus insisted that the LCS is ‘a warship and it is fully capable of going into combat situations,’ while heralding the LCS’ 2013 deployment to Singapore.

“Gilmore’s new report stands by the 2011 assessment, though it sands down the rough edges. ‘LCS is not expected to be survivable,’ it finds, ‘in that it is not expected to maintain mission capability after taking a significant hit in a hostile combat environment.’ Additionally, Gilmore discloses that the Navy has ‘knowledge gaps related to the vulnerability of an aluminum ship structure to weapon-induced blast and fire damage,’ but that it won’t conduct tests for those vulnerabilities until later this year or next year.

“It might also not be able to depend on all of its weapons in a fight. The 30mm gun on board the Freedom ‘exhibit(s) reliability problems.’ The 57mm gun on both the Freedom and its sister ship, the differently designed USS Independence, is apparently worse: ‘Ship operations at high speeds cause vibrations that make accurate use of the 57mm gun very difficult,’ Gilmore finds. Worse news for the Freedom: Its integrated weapons systems and air/surface search radar have ‘performance difficulties’ that affect the ship’s ‘tracking and engagement of contacts.’

“This is supposed to be a time of heraldry for the LCS. In March, the Freedom will head to Singapore for eight months as a harbinger of the Obama administration’s much-touted strategic focusing on Asia and the Pacific Ocean. It’s also meant to spur confidence in the Navy’s first new type of ship in two decades, an expensive design that still faces serious questions about just what its role in the Navy is. Its crew in San Diego is confident: ‘The guns shoot, we conduct [maritime interdiction] operations, and we move fast,’ Cmdr. Patrick Thien recently told Navy Times’ Christopher Cavas. Vice Adm. Tom Copeland, who heads the Navy’s surface fleet, last week called LCS an ‘integral and substantial part of our future force.’

“The Navy ultimately wants to buy 55 of the ships. When fully loaded with all its gear, the USS Freedom costs $ 670.4 million, according to an August report from the Congressional Research Office. The alternate design of the USS Independence runs $ 808.8 million. Fighting close to shore is only one of the missions that the LCS, a ship designed so the Navy can ‘plug and play’ different sensors and weapons systems as technology improves, is expected to perform. Another is mine-hunting – which the Freedom won’t do in Singapore.

“Problem is, the Pentagon’s weapons testers gave the LCS’ mine-hunting package a failing grade last year, and this one isn’t much better. This time around, Gilmore’s office found that the MH-60 Seahawks intended to launch from the LCS mine-hunters can’t ‘safely tow’ the sonar suites that scan for underwater mines. So the Navy has scrapped the plan to put the ‘underpowered’ helicopters aboard the LCS for mine-hunting. That’s left a ‘gap in organic mine sweeping capability’ on the LCS, the report states.

“The Navy’s plan to address that gap depends on the Unmanned Influence Sweep System, a semi-autonomous undersea robot that will spoof the acoustic and magnetic signals of big ships to compel the mines to detonate when Navy ships are not in range. Problem is, as Danger Room reported earlier this month, the Navy is just getting ready to solicit industry bids to build the robot. That gap in mine-sweeping capability is likely to last years – and that’s if the robot successfully speeds through the development and acquisition process.

“The report isn’t all bad news for the LCS. It finds that the Navy has fixed a crack in the hull of the Freedom. And it’s installing an anti-corrosion system on the Independence that should prevent a strange and aggressive corrosion discovered in 2011.

“It’s not as if the Navy isn’t aware of the problems with the ship: Adm. Jonathan Greenert, the Chief of Naval Operations, appointed a high-ranking panel in August to get the LCS up to snuff; its action plan is due at the end of January.

“‘Independent reviews by the [Pentagon testing] group occur regularly,’ Lt. Courtney Hillson, a Navy spokesperson, told Danger Room. ‘The group was given unlimited access to information and the Navy was an active participant in the process. The items highlighted in the report are all known issues – many of which the Navy was already in the process of addressing. As the program continues to mature, we expect additional recommendations to be incorporated.’

“Singapore isn’t exactly a combat zone. But the testing report makes clear that grounds for skepticism about the Navy’s newest warship remain – especially if pirates decide to challenge it on the open water.” –

55 aluminum warships? Put your money on the pirates.

We used to go fishing in aluminum boats a few years ago, and we weren’t too enthusiastic back then about the seaworthiness – and survivability – of such boats. Can you just imagine how confident the parents of those 75-man crews will be when these flimsy craft are operating close to shore? Even a WW II coastal battery would demolish an LCS. “Crappy Little Ships”, the sailors call them.

This is all just a lead in for this month’s commentary on the amount of gratuities the Navy receives from unsuspecting U.S. taxpayers. Much larger amounts are received by the Army, the Air Force, the Coast Guard, and of course, the Department of Homeland Security and the so-called TSA. Mr. Ackerman’s report emphasizes the wastefulness of these expenditures. Here’s some of them:

July 1st Gichner Shelter Systems, Dallastown, PA $ 25,519,650
Raytheon Systems, Portsmouth, RI $ 14,211,010
Jacobs and Architects Hawaii, St. Louis, MO $ 10,000,000
HITT Contracting, North Charleston, SC $ 9,965,000

July 2nd Critigen-Clark Nexsen, Greenwood Village, CO $ 35,000,000
Northrop Grumman Systems, Bethpage, NY $ 9,293,000

July 3rd EDO Professional Services, Alexandria, VA $ 22,120,993

July 5th United Technologies, East Hartford, CT $ 133,979,286
BAE Systems, San Francisco, CA $ 12,334,532

July 8th Raytheon Co., El Segundo, CA $ 279,400,000
L-3 Communications, Arlington, TX $ 33,174,360
AQUATE Corp., Huntsville, AL $ 15,313,067
CACI-Inc. Federal, Chantilly, VA $ 9,366,730

July 9th Globecom Systems Inc., Hauppauge, NY $ 85,007,313
AQUATE Corp., Huntsville, AL $ 14,837,366
Lone Star Aerospace, Addison, TX $ 12,367,735

July 10th Computer Sciences Corp., Falls Church, VA $ 41,096,308
Data Link Solutions LLC, Wayne, NJ $ 33,368,569
Northrop Grumman Systems, Charlottesville, VA $ 24,859,823
ViaSat Inc., Carlsbad, CA $ 19,487,844
SEACON Phoenix LLC, Ashaway, RI $ 13,140,237
AMETEK SCP Inc., Westerly, RI $ 13,140,237

July 11th Rolls Royce Corp., Indianapolis, IN $ 22,439,403
Navmar Applied Sciences, Warminster, PA $ 11,204,449
Logos Technologies, Inc., Arlington, VA $ 9,286,625
BME and Sons Inc., Barrigada, Guam $ 7,810,181

July 12th Lockheed Martin Corp., Owego, NY $ 12,878,468
QinetiQ North America, Waltham, MA $ 7,772,646

July 15th Desion West Technologies, Tustin, CA $ 20,878,535
Bell Helicopter Textron, Hurst, TX $ 17,907,086
System Engineering Support, San Diego, CA $ 15,189,906

July 16th Booz Allen Hamilton, McLean, VA $ 899,543,400
Northrop Grumman, Herndon, VA $ 59,568,528
Science Applications International, McLean, VA $ 10,196,609

July 17th Tetra Tech Inc., Arlington, VA $ 75,000,000
BOSH Global Services, Newport News, VA $ 98,764,531
Raytheon Systems, Tucson, AZ $ 19,070,236
The Boeing Co., St. Louis, MO $ 17,001,833
General Electric Co., Lynn, MA $ 15,691,247
The Boeing Co., St. Louis, MO $ 8,110,882

July 18th General Electric Co., Lynn, MA $ 87,034,442
Lockheed Martin Corp., Fort Worth, TX $ 70,358,000
Oceaneering International, Chesapeake, VA $ 99,717,771
Lockheed Martin Gyrocam, Orlando, FL $ 14,623,204
Rite Solutions Inc., Pawcatuck, CT $ 14,569,640

July 19th Lockheed Martin Systems, Sunnyvale, CA $ 10,917,152
General Dynamics Bath Iron Works, Bath, ME $ 7,526,038

July 22nd BAE Systems, San Diego, CA $ 38,601,943
General Dynamics, Williston, VT $ 32,679,084
Scientific Research Corp., Atlanta, GA $ 8,974,067

July 23rd GPC, Joint Venture, Irvine, CA $ 250,000,000
Manufacturing Techniques, Kilmarnock, VA $ 16,196,816

July 24th Northrop Grumman Systems, Bethpage, NY $ 617,048,000
QinetiQ North America, Waltham, MA $ 20,359,579
BAE Systems Hawaii, Honolulu, HI $ 15,986,837
3 Phoenix Inc., Chantilly, VA $ 25,856,218
BAE Systems, San Diego, CA $ 7,499,285

July 25th CH2M Hill/Clark Nexsen, Englewood, CO $ 180,000,000
Northrop Grumman Corp., Annapolis, MD $ 294,384,741
Anthony and Gordon Construction Co., Knoxville, TN $ 10,168,000
BAE Systems, Minneapolis, MN $ 9,222,314
Northrop Grumman Corp., McLean, VA $ 8,070,540
Telecommunications Inc., Annapolis, MD $ 6,865,586

July 26th BAE Systems Inc., Norfolk, VA $ 110,781,296

July 29th Kay and Associates, Inc., Buffalo Grove, IL $ 36,698,404
Harris Corp., Rochester, NY $ 22,117,791
Progeny Systems Corp., Manassas, VA $ 10,989,287
Science Applications International, Virginia Beach, VA $ 6,976,110
Iris Technology Corp., Irvine, CA $ 6,622,350

July 30th DynCorp International LLC, Fort Worth, TX $ 99,939,297
Defense Support Services LLC, Mount Laurel, NJ $ 46,097,112
Booz Allen Hamilton, McLean, VA $ 21,743,595
General Dynamics, Fairfax, VA $ 12,002,200
Lockheed Martin Aculight, Bothell, WA $ 11,796,483

July 31st The Boeing Co., Seattle, WA $ 2,042,060,385
Lockheed Martin Systems, Owego, NY $ 39,427,558
PKL Services Corp., Poway, CA $ 16,300,156
Brady G2*, San Diego, CA $ 75,000,000
Insitu Inc., Bingen, WA $ 8,528,000
Andromeda Systems, Inc., Virginia Beach, VA $ 7,700,000
TriEco Tetra Tech, Oakland, CA $ 7,500,000

That comes to a cool $ 6,624,319,658 of under-the-table “sweet-heart” deals, and brings us to the question we always pose at this point:

Do you have any idea how many profit-generating Jones Act – and patented – container ships U.S. shipyards could turn out with that kind of money every month? At $ 50 million a copy, we could build more than 130 of those vessels – every month!

And we’d need more than just the 107,000 workers now employed by the 300 yards now in operation. We’d be creating at least 50 million more jobs for the endeavor!