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 combatanta 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 Navys 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 ships 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 Navys 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 Navys 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 Navys 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.
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 51s 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 Navys business case.
Matter for Congressional Consideration
|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.||The FY 2014 National Defense Authorization Act 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. The Navy did complete and submit this report as required, and DOD considers this recommendation closed.|
|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.||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.|
|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.||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.|
Recommendations for Executive Action
|Department of Defense||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.|
|Department of Defense||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.|
|Department of Defense||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.|
|Department of Defense||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.|
|Department of Defense||The Secretary of Defense should ensure that the planned DDG 51 multiyear procurement request does not include a Flight III ship.|