Littoral Combat Ship:

Additional Testing and Improved Weight Management Needed Prior to Further Investments

GAO-14-749: Published: Jul 30, 2014. Publicly Released: Jul 30, 2014.

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Michele Mackin
(202) 512-4841


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What GAO Found

Since July 2013, the Navy has continued to demonstrate and test various facets of Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) systems and capability, but important questions remain about how LCS will operate and what capabilities it will provide the Navy. The first operational deployment of an LCS to Singapore gave the Navy an opportunity to examine key LCS concepts operationally. The deployment was limited to only one of the two variants carrying one of three mission packages. In addition, mechanical problems prevented the ship from spending as much time operationally as planned. As a result, some key concepts could not be tested. The Navy has completed some additional testing on the seaframes and mission packages, which has enabled the Navy to characterize performance of some systems, but performance has not yet been demonstrated in an operational environment.

Outstanding weight management and concurrency risks related to buying ships while key concepts and performance are still being tested continue to complicate LCS acquisitions. Initial LCS seaframes face capability limitations resulting from weight growth during construction. This weight growth has resulted in the first two ships not meeting performance requirements for sprint speed and/or endurance, as well as potentially complicating existing plans to make additional changes to each seaframe design. Several seaframes now do not have the required amount of service life allowance—margin to accommodate future changes without removing weight over the ship's lifetime—but Navy officials said they have a plan to recover the service life allowance on the Independence class variant.

Status of Recent Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) Service Life Allowances



Currently meets service life allowance requirements?a



No—24 tons less than requirement


                                Yes—exceeds requirement by 106 tons

LCS 5b

                                  Yes—exceeds requirement by 17 tons



                                       No—67 tons less than requirement


                                       No—34 tons less than requirement

LCS 6b

                                       No—19 tons less than requirement

Source: GAO analysis of Navy data. | GAO 14-749

aLCS has a service life allowance requirement of 50 metric tons. Numbers are rounded.

bLCS 1-LCS 4 have been delivered and therefore builder's margin remaining has become part of the service life allowance. LCS 5 and LCS 6 are still in construction and could gain available service life allowances if weight reserved for design and construction variations are not used.

The Navy has not received accurate or complete weight reports from the seaframe prime contractors, and the Navy's lengthy review process has hindered a timely resolution of the Navy's concerns. Additionally, a number of significant test events, including rough water, shock and total ship survivability trials, will not be completed in time to inform upcoming acquisition decisions—including future contract decisions. Finally, the Navy's recent decision to accelerate low rate initial production of mission packages above the quantity necessary for operational testing limits the flexibility that the program will have to adjust to any problems that may arise during operational testing.

Why GAO Did This Study

LCS represents an innovative approach to Navy acquisitions and operations, consisting of a ship—called a seaframe—and reconfigurable mission packages. These packages provide combat capability to perform three primary missions: surface warfare; mine countermeasures; and anti-submarine warfare. The Navy plans to buy no more than 32 seaframes in two variants from two shipyards, and 64 mission packages, with an estimated acquisition cost of over $25 billion in 2010 dollars. GAO was mandated to examine elements related to the LCS program. This report examines (1) knowledge that the Navy has gained since GAO issued a report on the LCS program in July 2013 and (2) outstanding acquisition risks with the LCS program. GAO analyzed key documents, including test and weight reports, and interviewed Navy officials responsible for the LCS deployment and program officials. This report is a public version of a sensitive but unclassified report issued in April 2014.

What GAO Recommends

GAO recommends that the Navy (1) demonstrate certain capabilities for both LCS seaframe variants before the Navy is approved for future contract awards and (2) ensure a timely review of contractor seaframe weight reports and take actions to make contractors more responsive to comments on the reports' content. DOD agreed with the weight report recommendation and partially agreed with the other, noting that it intends to complete as much testing as possible—but not all—before releasing the request for proposals for future contracts.

For more information, contact Michele Mackin at (202) 512-4841 or

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Open

    Comments: The Navy has significantly altered its planned acquisition strategy and no longer intends to award new block buy contracts in 2016. The Navy awarded contracts for 2 ships in fiscal year 2016 with the acquisition strategy to be determined for 3 ships in fiscal year 2017 and 3 ships in fiscal year 2018, and stated that it will award contracts for up to 20 of a new modified LCS in 2019. This revised approach alters the timing of our recommendation as written, but does not change our intention, which is to ensure that the Navy does not continue to commit to additional ships until it demonstrates that it has attained some level of knowledge related to a. overseas deployments; b. rough water trials, ship shock trials, and total ship survivability testing; and c. operational testing of at least one of the mission packages on each variant. The status of these issues to date is as follows: a. While the Navy has deployed the Freedom variant to Singapore twice, it has not yet deployed an Independence variant and such a deployment is not in the immediate future. b. The Navy has completed rough water trials on both variants but has not provided us a completed analytical report of the results. Neither ship will undergo shock testing until at least 2016. The Freedom variant completed a Total Ship Survivability Trial in 2015, and a similar trial is planned for the Independence variant in late 2015. c. The Navy completed initial operational test and evaluation of the Surface Warfare mission package on the Freedom variant in 2015. However, initial operational test and evaluation of the Mine Countermeasures mission package on the Independence variant continues to be delayed, with testing currently planned for Fall 2015. With the Navy's revised strategy, it may commit to buying 8 seaframes between 2016 and 2019 before having the results of some of these important activities. Even with the changes in the acquisition strategy, it remains important for DOD to re-evaluate the program and, if necessary, direct the Navy to slow the program to ensure it has sufficient knowledge gained from testing and deployments. Otherwise, the Navy remains at risk of procuring ships that do not meet mission requirements.

    Recommendation: The Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics should require--before approving the release of the request for proposals for future contracts for either seaframe variant--that both variants: a. Have deployed to a forward overseas location; b. Have completed rough water, ship shock, and total ship survivability testing; and c. Have completed initial operational test and evaluation of the SUW mission package on the Freedom variant and the MCM mission package on the Independence variant.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Office of the Secretary of Defense: Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In response to our recommendation, in 2014, the Navy conducted an analysis of its ship weight management process, and examined potential contract measures it could take to manage shipbuilder compliance with weight control measures. The Navy now requires the LCS technical warrant holder to approve all weight reports, and to provide any comments within 60 days. In order to make the contractor more responsive to problems in weight reports, the Navy also established Weight Control Integrated Product Teams at one yard. As a result contractor weight reporting and LCS weight management have improved, and the Navy has successfully approved the most recent quarterly weight reports within 60 days.

    Recommendation: To improve the Navy's ability to effectively oversee weight management of the LCS seaframes, the Secretary of the Navy should direct the LCS Seaframe Program Manager to: a. Take steps to ensure that the Navy completes its reviews and submits comments, if any, on the weight reports to the contractors within the timeframes dictated by the contract; and b. Consider actions to make the contractor more responsive to the Navy's identified accuracy and content problems in the weight reports, including pursuing financial withholds or modifying the contract language.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Navy


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