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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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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.


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.

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics
Priority Rec.
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.
Closed – Not Implemented
DOD partially concurred with our recommendation, stating that it has every intention of completing as many as possible of the test and demonstration items that we identified in our recommendation before releasing the request for proposals (RFP) for future seaframe contracts, but disagreed that the release of the RFP should hinge on completion of these events. DOD officials stated that creating a break in the production of the seaframes would increase program costs and have significant industrial base considerations. The Navy has made progress since we made this recommendation, deploying both variants overseas and completing total ship survivability trials and full ship shock trials, as well as testing in rough water conditions. However, the Navy has continued to annually fund and award contracts for the construction of additional LCS before having demonstrated survivability capabilities, with some surface warfare package operational testing yet to be completed and mine countermeasures package initial operational capability delayed until 2020. The Navy and DOD leadership have demonstrated over the past few years that the notable shortcomings in knowledge of LCS survivability and mission package operational performance will not prevent the department from buying additional LCS. Acquisition plans for fiscal years 2018 and 2019, which include funding the award of the remaining planned ships, reinforce this position. As such, we are closing this recommendation as not implemented.
Department of the Navy 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.
Closed – Implemented
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.

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