Navy Shipbuilding:

Increasing Focus on Sustainment Early in the Acquisition Process Could Save Billions

GAO-20-2: Published: Mar 24, 2020. Publicly Released: Mar 24, 2020.

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Shelby S. Oakley
(202) 512-4841
oakleys@gao.gov

 

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About 70% of a ship’s lifecycle costs are operations and maintenance costs.

Maintaining the Navy’s new ships will cost $130 billion more than planned.

We investigated every class of ships the Navy recently built and found 150 examples of systemic maintenance problems. Sailors showed us things like failed engines, faulty electronics, and clogged toilets.

These problems might have been prevented with some attention to future maintenance concerns when designing and building the ships.

We made 11 recommendations to help the Navy focus on maintenance concerns earlier. We suggested that Congress consider enhancing its oversight in this area.

Protective Coating Falling Off a Virginia Class Submarine (missing coating colored red for emphasis)

Navy servicemembes working on a submarine floating on the surface of the water

Navy servicemembes working on a submarine floating on the surface of the water

Multimedia:

Additional Materials:

Contact:

Shelby S. Oakley
(202) 512-4841
oakleys@gao.gov

 

Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800
youngc1@gao.gov

What GAO Found

The Navy has delivered warships—such as aircraft carriers, destroyers, and submarines—to its fleet over the past 10 years that require more effort to sustain than initially planned. In assessing how these classes of ships are sustained, GAO found 150 examples of class-wide problems, such as unreliable ship systems. These problems stemmed from shipbuilding programs not identifying, evaluating, or mitigating sustainment risks during the acquisition process. GAO found that it would cost the Navy $4.2 billion to correct just the 30 percent of these problems for which the Navy had data on estimated repair costs.

Problems Requiring More Sustainment Effort than Planned Across Multiple Ships in a Class

Problems Requiring More Sustainment Effort than Planned Across Multiple Ships in a Class

GAO found that shipbuilding programs' requirements for sustainment reflect weaknesses with how Department of Defense (DOD) policy defines these requirements for ships. Sustainment requirements should influence acquisition decisions that determine the sustainability of a ship class, such as the ship's design. However, the Navy's sustainment requirements do not provide key information on how reliable and maintainable mission-critical systems should be and, therefore, cannot adequately inform acquisition decisions.

GAO also found that shipbuilding programs did not consistently address sustainment risks in acquisition planning documents. For example, the operating and support costs included in cost estimates did not capture all sustainment risks that could affect costs or evaluate sensitivity to changing sustainment assumptions, contrary to DOD and Navy cost estimating guidance. As a result, for six shipbuilding programs whose costs GAO could assess, the Navy had underestimated sustainment costs by $130 billion, as shown below.

Operating and Support Cost Estimate Growth for Six Ship Classes

Problems Requiring More Sustainment Effort than Planned Across Multiple Ships in a Class

The Navy has begun making some changes to its acquisition oversight process, such as developing sustainment program baselines and adding a sustainment oversight review. While positive, these changes focus on considering sustainment after key decisions are made early in the acquisition process. GAO also found that DOD is not required to provide detailed information about shipbuilding programs' sustainment cost growth to Congress. As such, Congress does not have full insight into the extent of shipbuilding programs' cost growth and why such growth occurred.

Why GAO Did This Study

The U.S. Navy requested over $40 billion each of the last 3 years to build, operate, and sustain its fleet. Acquisition decisions made as ships are developed and built can have a long-term effect on sustainment costs and ship quality.

GAO was asked to assess the extent to which DOD considers and plans for sustainment when acquiring weapons. Among other objectives, this report assesses the extent to which: (1) Navy ship programs deliver ships to the fleet that can be sustained as planned; (2) the Navy develops and uses effective sustainment requirements during acquisition; (3) ship programs are effectively identifying and evaluating sustainment risks in planning documents; and (4) leadership considers programs' sustainment planning and outcomes. GAO reviewed DOD and Navy acquisition policy and guidance, evaluated acquisition plans, collected sustainment metrics, and conducted interviews with more than 100 organizations, including program office and fleet units. GAO assessed 11 classes of shipbuilding programs (all nine that delivered warships during the last 10 years, as well as two newer classes of ships).

What GAO Recommends

GAO is making one matter for Congressional consideration to enhance oversight and 11 recommendations to help DOD and Navy improve ship sustainment. DOD concurred with 8 and partially concurred with 3 recommendations but did not describe specific actions, which GAO believes are necessary to improve sustainment outcomes.

For more information, contact Shelby S. Oakley at (202) 512-4841 or oakleys@gao.gov.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Open

    Comments: As of August 2020, there are several draft bills that would address this matter.

    Matter: Congress should consider developing an oversight mechanism for evaluating shipbuilding programs' sustainment cost estimate growth during the acquisition process, with requirements for the Navy to: (1) report sustainment cost estimate growth information to Congress and (2) reassess shipbuilding programs that are experiencing a high level of sustainment cost estimate growth.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Open

    Comments: DOD partially concurred with this recommendation stating that it would work with the Navy and Joint Staff to revisit requirements definitions for shipbuilding programs to better ensure that they are traceable to a ship's mission and can be used across ship development and fielding. As of June 2020, DOD officials told us that there are two upcoming opportunities to make changes to DOD Joint Capabilities Integration and Development System policy and that these recommendations will receive consideration during this process.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should change its definition for setting operational availability for ships in its Joint Capabilities Integration and Development System policy by adding information that defines the operational availability requirement by mission area in addition to the ship level and includes all equipment failures that affect the ability of a ship to perform primary missions. (Recommendation 1)

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Open

    Comments: DOD concurred with this recommendation stating that it will work with the Navy and the Joint Staff to revisit requirements definitions for shipbuilding programs to better ensure materiel availability requirements include all factors that could preclude a ship from operating. As of June 2020, DOD officials told us that there are two upcoming opportunities to make changes to DOD Joint Capabilities Integration and Development System policy and that these recommendations will receive consideration during this process.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should change its definition for setting materiel availability for ships in its Joint Capabilities Integration and Development System requirements policy to include all factors that could result in a ship being unavailable for operations, such as unplanned maintenance, unplanned losses, and training. (Recommendation 2)

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  3. Status: Open

    Comments: DOD partially concurred with this recommendation stating that changes to the requirements setting policy will apply only to new shipbuilding programs. As of June 2020, DOD officials told us that there are two upcoming opportunities to make changes to DOD Joint Capabilities Integration and Development System policy and that these recommendations will receive consideration during this process. While important steps towards improving the requirements setting process, DOD officials did not state whether any policy changes would apply to current shipbuilding programs. As we discussed in our report, at least four ship classes have plans for a new flight, block, and/or major modification. DOD and the Navy may miss key opportunities to improve the Navy's sustainment requirements if it excludes existing programs that have established requirements but have yet to start design or construction.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Navy should direct the ASN (RD&A) and the CNO, once DOD requirements setting policy is revised, to update existing operational availability requirements for ongoing shipbuilding programs. When revising these requirements, the Navy should set operational availability requirements that: (1) are based on failures that affect the ability of a ship to perform primary missions and (2) are set at the mission level instead of ship level. (Recommendation 3)

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Navy

  4. Status: Open

    Comments: DOD partially concurred with this recommendation stating that changes to the requirements setting policy will apply to new shipbuilding programs. As of June 2020, DOD officials told us that there are two upcoming opportunities to make changes to DOD Joint Capabilities Integration and Development System policy and that these recommendations will receive consideration during this process.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Navy should direct the ASN (RD&A) and the CNO, once DOD requirements setting policy is revised, to update the materiel availability requirements for ongoing shipbuilding programs. When developing or revising these requirements, the Navy should set materiel availability requirements that fully capture all factors that could preclude a ship from being ready when needed. (Recommendation 4)

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Navy

  5. Status: Open

    Comments: The Navy concurred with this recommendation and will report operational and materiel availability in the Selected Acquisition Reports based on new definitions in DOD guidance. Therefore, we plan to close this recommendation once DOD updates its definitions and reports numbers in the SAR based on these new definitions.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Navy should direct the ASN (RD&A) and the CNO, once the Navy revises its sustainment requirements, to ensure that shipbuilding programs report operational availability and materiel availability requirements in Selected Acquisition Reports, and alternatives to the Selected Acquisition Reports, for Congress. (Recommendation 5)

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Navy

  6. Status: Open

    Comments: The Navy concurred with this recommendation stating that it agrees that the use of sensitivity, uncertainty, and risk analyses is a best practice to ensure credible, defensible life cycle cost estimates. However, the Navy has yet to issue any policy updates or provide any evidence that it is conducting sensitivity analyses and other analyses to improve their assessment of cost risk in the O&S costs in shipbuilding programs' life-cycle cost estimates.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Navy should direct the Commander of Naval Sea Systems Command to ensure that cost estimators follow current guidance and GAO-identified best practices and conduct sensitivity analyses and other analyses to improve their assessment of cost risk in the O&S costs in shipbuilding programs' life-cycle cost estimates. (Recommendation 6)

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Navy

  7. Status: Open

    Comments: The Navy concurred with this recommendation and stated that it will ensure that all shipbuilding program develop and maintain accurate and complete life cycle sustainment plans. However, as we state in our report, the Navy did not have any accurate and completed life cycle sustainment plans and, as July 2020, has not updated any of these plans.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Navy should direct the ASN (RD&A) to ensure all shipbuilding programs develop and update LCSPs, in accordance with DOD policy, that demonstrate how a ship class can be affordably operated and maintained while meeting sustainment requirements, including associated business case analyses and identifying sustainment risk. (Recommendation 7)

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Navy

  8. Status: Open

    Comments: The department concurred with our recommendation and stated that the Navy will undertake a review and will approve any updated Independent Logistics Assessment (ILA) policy that emphasizes risk identification and mitigation in the ILA review. In July 2020, Navy officials stated that the Naval Sea Systems Command and the Secretary for Acquisition and Sustainment co-chaired a system-level ILA Working Group in 2020 to rewrite the Navy ILA Handbook to address key deficiencies in the current ILA process and to emphasize the use of a readiness at cost model. ILA Handbook and associated Secretary of Navy Instructions is currently in comment adjudication. In addition, Naval Sea Systems Command is developing an ILA database that provides stakeholders with visibility and insight into their respective programs' ILA-identified sustainment risks to closure. Once completed, Navy officials state that these items should implement the needed improvements to ILAs.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Navy should direct the Commander of Naval Sea Systems Command to evaluate and implement changes to the ILA in order to position the ILA to effectively identify key sustainment risks and make recommendations for risk mitigation, which may include existing Navy proposals to change the ILA process. (Recommendation 8)

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Navy

  9. Status: Open

    Comments: The Navy concurred with this recommendation and stated that it has updated its Gate 6 sustainment sufficiency process and is executing a new Gate 7 sustainment review. In July 2020, Navy officials reported to us that the Chief of Naval Operations and the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Acquisition will collaborate to ensure sustainment focus areas are properly emphasized at all Gate reviews. As our report states, focusing on sustainment at Gate 7 is likely insufficient to address many of the problems we found in the report. However, as of July 2020, the Navy has yet to provide us with evidence that demonstrate an increase in focus on sustainment during gate briefings or any of the new Gate 7 briefings.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Navy should direct the ASN (RD&A) and the CNO to ensure sustainment-related briefing topics prescribed by the Navy's acquisition policy are consistently discussed at Gate reviews. (Recommendation 9)

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Navy

  10. Status: Open

    Comments: The Navy concurred with this recommendation and Navy acquisition leadership officials stated that they will review the results of the demonstration programs for the Sustainment Program Baseline initiative and implement guidance for shipbuilding and all programs in subsequent guidance and policy concerning Sustainment Program Baselines. In updating its response to our recommendations in July 2020, the Navy is planning to implement the Sustainment Program Baseline as a pilot program for ships and submarines in fiscal year 2021.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Navy should direct the ASN (RD&A) and the CNO to implement the sustainment program baseline initiative for shipbuilding programs and, in so doing, develop a mechanism that ensures that sustainment outcomes are a factor in shipbuilding programs' decision-making during the acquisition process. (Recommendation 10)

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Navy

  11. Status: Open

    Comments: the Navy concurred with this recommendation and stated that they will ensure that Product Support Managers (PSM) are assigned to acquisition programs ahead of Milestone A in compliance with existing DoD PSM policies. However, as of July 2020, the Navy did not state that it is planning to revise SECNAVINST 5000.2.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Navy should revise SECNAVINST 5000.2 and other associated guidance to ensure PSMs are assigned to shipbuilding program offices in time to inform early acquisition decisions, including development of the program's sustainment requirements and LCSPs. (Recommendation 11)

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Navy

 

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