The Government Accountability Office (GAO) in a report released Tuesday said the Navy lacks complete data on the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) despite an extended deployment of a Freedom variant ship last year.

The USS Freedom during its deployment to the Asia-Pacific. Photo: U.S. Navy
The USS Freedom during its deployment to the Asia-Pacific. Photo: U.S. Navy

The Navy’s estimates show the LCSs may end up having greater lifecycle costs than larger, more capable warships, the GAO also said in the report (GAO-14-447).

Collecting data on the 10-month deployment of the USS Freedom (LCS-1) to Singapore last year did not yield as many lessons learned as possible because mechanical problems at times kept the ship in port. The Navy is also lacking in the collection of data for the three mission packages planned for the ship: anti-submarine warfare, surface warfare and mine countermeasures.

Those three mission packages, however, remain in development. The Navy has been incorporating the lessons learned during the Freedom’s deployment. The GAO cited some of the problems.

It said high workloads for the crew left them below the Navy’s standards for sleeping, even though additional personnel were added for the deployment. There were gaps in training the LCS sailors before the deployment, and the service has yet to determine the role of contractors in performing preventative maintenance, the GAO said. The report also said the Navy still does not have the infrastructure to support the Freedom and Independence LCS variants.

“Without fully analyzing risks in key concepts, the LCS may have operational limitations, deficits in personnel and materiel readiness, and higher costs,” the report said.

Lt. Rob Myers, a Navy spokesman, noted that the GAO report also stated that the service did acquire useful information through the Singapore deployment, and will continuously incorporate lessons learned into future ships.

“The GAO report in question acknowledges that Freedom’s deployment to Singapore provided beneficial data on operational support and sustainment concepts for LCS in an operational environment,” Myers said. “As the first in an entirely new line of ships it was important to test and validate the ship’s unique maintenance and support concept, and the information gathered during her deployment was instrumental throughout the program. We continue to rigorously test both variants and the three mission packages, incorporating lessons learned which will be validated during developmental and operational testing over the next few years.”

The GAO said the annual cost of operating an LCS could exceed other ships. Based on Navy estimates. Including the mission packages, an LCS will cost $79 million annually to operate, the GAO said, citing Navy estimates. That exceeds frigates, and comes close to much more capable and larger Arleigh Burke-class (DDG-51) destroyers.

Responding to the report, the assistant secretary of defense for acquisition, Katrina McFarland, wrote that data for the lifecycle costs of the other ships is incomplete, and therefore reflects a cost that brings it closer to the LCS, for which the estimates include all of the expected costs. She also noted that the Navy has learned about how to operate the older ships more cost effectively, but has yet to have the opportunity to do the same with the LCS since it’s a new class.