Arleigh Burke Destroyers:

Additional Analysis and Oversight Required to Support the Navy's Future Surface Combatant Plans

GAO-12-113: Published: Jan 24, 2012. Publicly Released: Jan 24, 2012.

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What GAO Found

The Navy relied on its 2009 Radar/Hull Study as the basis to select DDG 51 over DDG 1000 to carry the Air and Missile Defense Radar (AMDR) as its preferred future surface combatant—a decision that may result in a procurement of up to 43 destroyers and cost up to $80 billion over the next several decades. The Radar/Hull Study may not provide a sufficient analytical basis for a decision of this magnitude. Specifically, the Radar/Hull Study:

  • focuses on the capability of the radars it evaluated, but does not fully evaluate the capabilities of different shipboard combat systems and ship options under consideration,
  • does not include a thorough trade-off analysis that would compare the relative costs and benefits of different solutions under consideration or provide robust insight into all cost alternatives, and
  • assumes a significantly reduced threat environment from other Navy analyses, which allowed radar performance to seem more effective than it may actually be against more sophisticated threats.

The Navy’s planned production schedules of the restart DDG 51 ships are comparable with past performance and officials told us that hull and mechanical systems changes are modest, but these ships will cost more than previous DDG 51s. A major upgrade to the ship’s combat system software also brings several challenges that could affect the restart ships, due in part to a key component of this upgrade that has already faced delays. Further delays could postpone delivery to the shipyard for the first restart ship, and could also jeopardize the Navy’s plan to install and test the upgrade on an older DDG 51 prior to installation on the restart ships. This first installation would serve to mitigate risk, and if it does not occur on time the Navy will be identifying, analyzing, and resolving any combat system problems on the first restart ship. Further, the Navy does not plan to fully test new capabilities until after certifying the upgrade as combat-ready, and has not planned for realistic operational testing necessary to fully demonstrate its integrated cruise and ballistic missile defense performance.

The Navy faces significant technical risks with its new Flight III DDG 51 ships, and the current level of oversight may not be sufficient given these risks. The Navy is pursuing a reasonable risk mitigation approach to AMDR development, but it will be technically challenging. According to Navy analysis, selecting the DDG 51 hullform to carry AMDR requires significant redesign and reduces the ability of these ships to accommodate future systems. This decision also limits the radar size to one that will be at best marginally effective and incapable of meeting the Navy’s desired capabilities. The Navy may have underestimated the cost of Flight III, and its plan to include the lead ship in a multiyear procurement contract given the limited knowledge about the configuration and the design of the ship creates potential cost risk. Finally, the current level of oversight may not be commensurate with a program of this size, cost, and risk and could result in less information being available to decision makers.

Why GAO Did This Study

After nearly a decade and almost $10 billion in development on Zumwalt class destroyers, the Navy changed its acquisition approach from procuring Zumwalts to restarting production of Arleigh Burke class destroyers (DDG 51) and building a new version, known as Flight III. As requested, GAO reviewed the Navy’s plans for DDG 51 and missile defense capabilities by (1) evaluating how the Navy determined the most appropriate platform to meet surface combatant requirements; (2) identifying and analyzing differences in design, cost, and schedule of the restart ships compared with previous ships; and (3) assessing the feasibility of Navy plans for maturing and integrating new technologies and capabilities. GAO analyzed Navy and contractor documentation and interviewed Navy, contractor, and other officials.

What GAO Recommends

GAO is making several recommendations to the Secretary of Defense, including requiring the Navy to conduct thorough analyses of alternatives for its future surface combatant program and conduct realistic operational testing of the integrated missile defense capability of the DDG 51’s upgrade, ensuring that the Navy does not include the lead Flight III ship in a multiyear procurement request, and raising the level of oversight for this program. DOD agreed with the recommendations to varying degrees, but generally did not offer specific actions to address them. GAO believes all recommendations remain valid and has included matters for congressional consideration to ensure the soundness of the Navy’s business case.

For more information, contact Belva Martin at (202) 512-4841 or MartinB@gao.gov.

Status Legend:

More Info
  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Matters for Congressional Consideration

    Matter: To help ensure that the department makes a sound investment moving forward, Congress may wish to consider directing the Secretary of Defense to elevate the ACAT status of the DDG 51 Flight III to an ACAT ID level if the decision is made to continue pursuing the program.

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Although the Congress did not take legislative action on this recommendation, on July 24, 2012, the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisitions, Technology and Logistics issued a memorandum to the Secretary of the Navy re-designating DDG 51 as an ACAT 1D program, consistent with our recommendation.

    Matter: To help ensure that the department makes a sound investment moving forward, Congress may wish to consider directing the Secretary of Defense to include the lead DDG 51 Flight III ship in a multi-year procurement request only when the Navy has adequate knowledge about ship design, cost, and risk.

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The National Defense Authorization Act for 2013 (Sec. 123) authorized the Navy to enter into one or more multiyear contracts, beginning in fiscal year 2013, for the procurement of up to 10 Arleigh Burke class Flight IIA guided missile destroyers,as well as the Aegis weapon systems, MK 41 vertical launching systems, and commercial broadband satellite systems associated with these ships. This approval did not include authorization for a Flight III ship. In particular, the Senate Appropriations Committee stated it was premature to request authority for an ECP within the multiyear procurement at this time and provided multiyear procurement authority only for Flight IIA Arleigh Burke class guided missile destroyers, as authorized in S. 3254, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013.

    Matter: To help ensure that the department makes a sound investment moving forward, Congress may wish to consider directing the Secretary of Defense to require the Navy to submit a thorough, well-documented AOA for the its future surface combatant program that follows both DOD acquisition guidance and the elements outlined in our first recommendation prior to issuing solicitations for any detail design and construction contracts of DDG 51 Flight III ships.

    Status: Open

    Comments: In January 2012, GAO issued a report regarding the Navy's plans to restart production of Arleigh Burke (DDG 51) class destroyers. The report identified shortcomings in the analysis used to support the Navy's decision to pursue the Flight III concept. In particular, GAO concluded that a solid base of analysis regarding the alternatives, cost, and technical risks was not sufficiently in place and that, as a result, Congress will not have assurance that the Navy is pursuing an appropriate strategy with regard to its future surface combatants. GAO recommended that Congress should consider directing the Secretary of Defense to require the Navy to submit a thorough, well-documented AOA for its future surface combatant program that follows both DOD acquisition guidance and the elements outlined in our first recommendation prior to issuing solicitations for any detail design and construction contracts of DDG 51 Flight III ships. In the FY 2014 National Defense Authorization Act, the House directed the Secretary of the Navy to submit a report that provides an updated comparison of the costs and risks of acquiring DDG 1000 and DDG 51 Flight III ships equipped for enhanced ballistic missile defense capability, including: (1) an updated estimate of the total cost to develop, procure, operate, and support ballistic missile defense capable DDG 1000 destroyers equipped with the air and missile defense radar that would be procured in addition to the three prior-year-funded DDG 1000 class ships, and in lieu of Flight III DDG 51 destroyers; (2) the estimate of the total cost of the current plan to develop, procure, operate,and support Flight III DDG 51 destroyers; (3) details on the assumed ballistic missile defense requirements and construction schedules for both the DDG 1000 and DDG 51 Flight III destroyers; and (4) An updated comparison of the program risks and the resulting ship capabilities in all dimensions. Since such a comparison would look at the Navy's options for surface combatants we will consider this recommendation implemented if the report is in the final bill passed into law. We will follow up next year.

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Navy to conduct a thorough AOA in accordance with DOD acquisition guidance for its future surface combatant program to include: (a) a range of representative threat environments developed in concert with the intelligence community; (b) results of its ongoing Flight III studies and full cost estimates in advance of awarding DDG 51 Flight III production contracts; (c) implications of the ability of the preferred ship to accommodate new technologies on future capabilities to determine the most suitable ship to carry AMDR and meet near-term IAMD requirements and provide a path to far-term capabilities; (d) implications on future fleet composition; and (e) an assessment of sensor netting-conducted in consultation with MDA and other cognizant DOD components-to determine the risks inherent in the sensor netting concept, potential current or planned programs that could be leveraged, and how sensor netting could realistically be integrated with the selected future surface combatant to assist in conducting BMD. This AOA should be briefed to the Joint Requirements Oversight Council.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Open

    Comments: DOD disagreed with the recommendation to conduct an Analysis of Alternatives (AoA) for its future surface combatant program. The Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (Strategic and Technical Systems), believes that the MAMDF AOA and the Radar/Hull study constitute the objectives of an AOA and stated that the Navy is continuing to develop the preliminary design of the Flight III Engineering Change Proposal (ECP), which it believes will be completed by November 30, 2013. Moreover, DASD/STS stated that OSD Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation (CAPE) completed its cost assessment for the DDG 51 multi-year procurement and stated that the multi-year procurement from Fiscal Year (FY) 2013 through FY 2017 will be for Flight IIA ships and a future competitive contract action will be used to award ECPs to insert any Flight III changes. The first Flight III ECP would be awarded for an FY 2016 ship at the earliest. CAPE will complete a cost assessment for the Flight III ships prior to contract award. In addition, DASD (STS) stated that sensor netting might be a key capability for the future; however, sensor netting has not been determined to be a requirement for any future surface combatant including DDG 51 Flight III. The Joint Multi-Service Systems Engineering Team (MSSET) is conducting engineering that is addressing sensor netting across the Joint Integrated Air and Missile Defense (IAMD) architecture. Initial focus is on Air and Cruise Missile Defense but will eventually evolve to Ballistic Missile Defense. The MSSET is funded to provide the Joint I AMD systems architecture and to conduct the engineering to recommend an integrated solution to the Services and Missile Defense Agency by the end of FY 2014. While the above studies provide an opportunity to look at the potential costs of the Flight III program they do not supplement our original recommendation that recommended the Navy look at all possible surface combatant solutions--not just DDG 51. Therefore, we will keep this recommendation open pending the possibility that Congress will require the Navy to provide such a study, as well as the inputs to the above study on sensor netting.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should ensure that the planned DDG 51 multiyear procurement request does not include a Flight III ship.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (Strategic and Technical Systems) DASD (STS) stated that DOD is following the certification requirements of section 2306b of title 10, United States Code, regarding requests for multi-year procurement authority. In fiscal year 2013 the Navy received congressional approval for its plan to award a multiyear procurement contract for fiscal year 2013-2017. This MYP arrangement would include six Flight IIA DDG-51s in FY2013-FY2016. Beginning in FY2016, however, the Navy plans to introduce three Flight III ships using Engineering Change Proposals. Thus, the Navy has essentially included the Flight III ships in the MYP and did not take action on our recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should upgrade the oversight of the Navy's future surface combatant program to ACAT 1D status, and ensure that the appropriate milestone entry point is selected to provide cost baselines and assessments of design and technical risks and maturity.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: On July 24, 2012, the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisitions, Technology and Logistics issued a memorandum for the Secretary of the Navy re-designating the DDG 51 program as an ACAT 1D program, consistent with our recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Navy to, in consultation with MDA and DOD and Navy weapons testers, define an operational testing approach for the Aegis ACB-12 upgrades that includes sufficient simultaneous live-fire testing needed to fully validate IAMD capabilities.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Open

    Comments: According to the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (Strategic and Technical Systems) DASD (STS), the Navy's Commander for Operational Test and Evaluation Force (COTF) continues its early involvement in land-based and at-sea testing via developmental testing assists and through the COTF Detachment Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division to provide early insight into system performance. In addition, DASD (STS) stated that the developmental and operational testing approaches and details will be documented in the MDA's Integrated Master Test Plan and the Navy's Test and Evaluation Master Plan 1669 Revision I, to be approved by OSD Director for Operational Test and Evaluation and Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Developmental Testing and Evaluation. DASD stated that the TEMP 1669 Revision 1 is currently in staffing for signature and the Navy expects to obtain approval by June 30, 2013. The Navy believes that they have addressed our recommendation by adding live fire testing. However, we have not yet received a copy of the Navy's latest Test and Evaluation Master Plan (TEMP) to verify this testing. We are leaving this recommendation open pending receipt and review of the TEMP.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Navy to report to Congress in its annual long-range shipbuilding plan on its plans for a future, larger surface combatant, carrying a more capable version of AMDR and the costs and quantities of this ship.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Open

    Comments: The Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (Strategic and Technical Systems) DASD(STS) stated that Section 231 of title 10, United States Code, requires the submission of a periodic report to Congress on the long range plan for the construction of naval vessels. The Navy will continue to assess future threats and ship affordability, modify its shipbuilding plan, and make future periodic reports as required by section 231. In addition, the Navy will include in long range shipbuilding plans any future, larger surface combatant, carrying a more capable version of AMDR, including the costs and quantities, if such capability is determined necessary and affordable. However, the Long Range Shipbuilding Plan for Fiscal Year 2014 issued on April 11, 2013 only indicates that the Navy plans to procure a DDG 51 Flight IV, but does not provide additional information regarding the specifics of this ship, including whether it will be based on a clean sheet design as well as the costs. Since this ship is expected in 2030 this recommendation will be left open pending additional long range shipbuilding plans.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Navy to conduct a thorough AOA in accordance with DOD acquisition guidance for its future surface combatant program to include: (a) a range of representative threat environments developed in concert with the intelligence community; (b) results of its ongoing Flight III studies and full cost estimates in advance of awarding DDG 51 Flight III production contracts; (c) implications of the ability of the preferred ship to accommodate new technologies on future capabilities to determine the most suitable ship to carry AMDR and meet near-term IAMD requirements and provide a path to far-term capabilities; (d) implications on future fleet composition; and (e) an assessment of sensor netting—conducted in consultation with MDA and other cognizant DOD components—to determine the risks inherent in the sensor netting concept, potential current or planned programs that could be leveraged, and how sensor netting could realistically be integrated with the selected future surface combatant to assist in conducting BMD. This AOA should be briefed to the Joint Requirements Oversight Council.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

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