Navy Acquisitions:

Improved Littoral War-Fighting Capabilities Needed

GAO-01-493: Published: May 18, 2001. Publicly Released: May 18, 2001.

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Paul L. Francis
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According to the Navy, the primary purpose of forward-deployed naval forces is to project power from the sea to influence events ashore. To be successful, naval forces must be able to gain access to, and operate in the coastal areas of potential adversaries. Consequently, they must be able to detect and neutralize enemy sea mines and other antiship weapons. Finally, they must be able to launch and support offensive operations against enemy forces ashore. This report assesses the Navy's (1) existing mine countermeasures, (2) antisubmarine warfare, (3) ship self-defense, (4) surface fire support capabilities, and (5) progress in the acquisition programs the Navy is pursuing to address shortfalls in these areas. GAO found that the Navy's current force of specialized ships, helicopters, and other assets developed to detect and neutralize enemy sea mines lack several key warfighting capabilities it needs for shoreline operations. Although the Navy is making some progress in overcoming shortfalls in antisubmarine warfare, a lack of resources and priorities among competing programs persists. The Navy's ship defense capabilities against cruise missiles are marginal, and surface ships will be at risk when operating within the range of these weapons. The Navy will not meet the Marine Corps' naval surface fire support requirements for at least another decade. The Navy has shown limited progress in overcoming shortfalls in the acquisition programs it is pursuing.

Matters for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In November 2002, Congress proceeded with an extension of the certification requirement until 2008; the extension reiterated the roles of the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the certification process. Additionally, the extension noted the role and responsibility of the Joint Requirements Oversight Council on this matter. Finally, the extension mandated notification to Congress if any programmatic changes are undertaken.

    Matter: Given continuing shortfalls in the Navy's ability to detect and neutralize enemy mines and the slow pace of improvement, Congress may wish to extend its annual requirement for the Secretary of Defense to certify the Navy's Mine Warfare Plan through fiscal year 2006. Congress may want to strengthen the effect of the certification by requiring the Secretary to provide a report detailing the priorities of the various mine countermeasure programs that the Navy is pursuing under the Mine Warfare Plan and provide an annual accounting of the progess the Navy has made with each program.

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In July 2003, the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee included language in its report on the fiscal year 2003 defense appropriations bill, regarding the Navy's Anti-submarine warfare master plan. Citing the establishment of a task force on anti-submarine warfare by the Chief of Naval Operations, the committee requested a full report from the team on the results, recommendations, and corresponding plan for implementation.

    Matter: As the Navy's antisubmarine warfare procurement funding is below the levels that the Navy deems adequate to address the most likely threats, Congress may wish to require the Secretary of Defense to provide an updated assessment of the Navy's antisubmarine capabilities and shortfalls. The assessment should identify the programs, their relative priority, and the funding that will be required to develop the systems that are needed to counter current and future threats.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In April 2003, Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics (ATL), Pete Aldridge refused to certify the USN MCM plan on the grounds of tardy delivery. As such, Aldridge stated that the OSD would take over oversight responsibilities from the USN, beginning with a complete review of MCM programs in September 2003, and quarterly reviews thereafter, including all milestone decisions. Additionally, the USN was ordered to submit all proposed programmatic changes to the ATL and OSD Comptroller offices for review and approval.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Navy to develop a more comprehensive mine countermeasures warfare plan. The plan should identify and address shortfalls and limitations in mine countermeasures capabilities in the littoral--particularly shortfalls and limitations in breaching and clearing minefields very close to the shore. In addressing limitations, the plan should identify the mix of mine warfare capabilities and systems for its future force structure to include the types and quantities of systems to be procured; priorities among systems; development schedules for the systems; and the level of resources required for development, procurement, and sustainment.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense


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