Defense Acquisitions: Overcoming Challenges Key to Capitalizing on Mine Countermeasures Capabilities

GAO-08-13 Published: Oct 12, 2007. Publicly Released: Nov 13, 2007.
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The Navy initiated a move away from traditional minesweepers in favor of putting new kinds of anti-mine capabilities aboard ships with a variety of missions--most recently, the Littoral Combat Ship. In addition to a new ship, this approach includes several new systems and new operational concepts. GAO assessed the Navy's progress in (1) developing new mine countermeasures systems, including the Littoral Combat Ship, and (2) introducing these new capabilities to the fleet. To accomplish this, GAO reviewed Navy and program documents and previous GAO work. GAO supplemented its analysis with discussions with Navy and Department of Defense officials and contractors.

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Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Defense Given the importance of intelligence preparation of the environment for enabling Littoral Combat Ship operations, the Secretary of Defense should analyze whether capabilities resulting from current intelligence preparation investments will enable the Littoral Combat Ship to meet required mission timelines. If necessary, the Secretary of Defense should assess options for improving intelligence preparation of the environment capabilities.
Closed – Not Implemented
The agency concurred with our recommendation, but it did not take substantive actions to address it. In October 2007, at the time we issued our report, the Navy planned to field the Mission Reconfigurable Unmanned Undersea Vehicle in 2016 -- a system that would have provided some intelligence preparation of the environment capability in support of the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS). However, the Navy's fiscal year 2010 budget submission subsequently terminated funding for this program, citing technical and engineering limitations facing the vehicle. Other candidate systems remain in early research and development phases, and the Navy has not completed an analysis of its intelligence preparation investments and planned LCS mission timelines.
Department of Defense Given the importance of well-developed manning and sustainment concepts to achieving mine countermeasures timelines, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Navy to determine the extent to which concepts of operation and the likely performance of the Littoral Combat Ship and other assets can be reconciled to provide the needed mine countermeasures capability.
Closed – Implemented
The Navy has updated Littoral Combat Ship concept of operations documents to refine plans for (1) integrating mine countermeasures mission systems, (2) manning the ship, and (3) providing logistical support. These revised documents reflect an increased understanding of seaframe characteristics and anticipated performance limitations.
Department of Defense In light of delays facing the Littoral Combat Ship program, as well as the planned decommissioning of existing mine countermeasures ships and helicopters, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Navy to evaluate the need for and feasibility of fielding mine countermeasures systems currently planned for the Littoral Combat Ship on alternative ship platforms as well.
Closed – Implemented
In February 2008, the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition requested that the Navy conduct an analysis of alternative platforms and develop a concept of operations for mine countermeasures capability with or without the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS). This analysis was to be submitted with the fiscal year 2010 Mine Countermeasures Master Plan. In a November 2008 draft of that fiscal year 2010 Mine Countermeasures Master Plan validated by the Joint Requirements Oversight Committee, the Navy indicates this analysis was conducted. The resulting analysis identifies amphibious and seabasing platforms as providing the greatest capability and least risk in the event LCS were not available as planned.
Department of Defense To ensure an accurate understanding of operational suitability for new mine countermeasures systems, the Secretary of Defense should delay approval of full-rate production for systems contained within the mine countermeasures mission package, pending successful completion of operational testing onboard their primary platform, currently identified as the Littoral Combat Ship.
Closed – Implemented
The Navy now plans to conduct initial operational test and evaluation of the mine countermeasures (MCM) mission package onboard the Littoral Combat Ship prior to anticipated full rate production decisions for several systems within the package. This decision can be attributed, in part, to ongoing technical challenges -- and subsequent operational testing delays -- facing a number of MCM systems currently in low rate initial production.

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