GAO points to delays in ship technology development

As the Navy builds and tests 10 subsystems under its multi-billion DD(X) warships program, the Government Accountability Office found that none of the technologies used in the engineering development models will demonstrate a high level of maturity before the lead ship is constructed.

Four of the subsystems ' the ship computing environment, the peripheral vertical launch system, the hull form and the infrared mockups ' are progressing as planned toward demonstrating complete subsystems, GAO found.

Four other systems, the integrated power system, the autonomic fire suppression system, the dual band radar, and the integrated deckhouse, have each encountered problems.

And the two remaining systems, the integrated undersea warfare system and the advanced gun system, will not be finished by the time the systems are installed on the first ship, according to GAO.

GAO found that the dual band radar would experience a schedule delay resulting from the Navy's decision to change one radar type and that the integrated power system had exceeded its original weight allocation.

'Best practices call for demonstrating technologies before entering system design and stability of system design before proceeding with production. None of the 10 engineering development models were demonstrated when system design began,' said Paul L. Francis, director of acquisition and sourcing management, in the report for GAO.

'DD(X) technology maturity and design stability will not be demonstrated before the decision to authorize construction of the lead ship, creating risks for establishing and meeting realistic cost, schedule, and performance objectives,' Francis added.

The Defense Department disagreed.

'The DD(X) program is on track to support the demonstration of certain fundamental capabilities at Milestone B (prior to lead ship contract award), to complete necessary training by ship critical design review and to mature systems in time for ship installation,' said Glenn F. Lamartin, director of Defense systems in the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics.

Lamartin said that the Navy allocated additional margin from the total ship margin to accommodate the additional weight for the integrated power system. He added that changes in the development schedule for the dual band radar 'were the result of a deliberate Navy decision to change the Volume Search Radar frequency from L-band to S-band, not of issues with the technical approach.'

The Navy is currently in the system design phase of the warships. They will include integrated combat systems and advanced networking and Northrop Grumman Corp. was chosen to lead the design phase of the program.

DD(X) features more sophisticated automation systems that will allow the Navy to shrink crews. The program, which will run in the tens of billions of dollars, uses a spiral development acquisition model to equip the ships with the latest technology.

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