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San Diego-based USS Fort Worth again faces chopping block

Navy shipbuilding forced more than $11 billion over budget, audit says

The hit list includes the San Diego-based USS Fort Worth.
The hit list includes the San Diego-based USS Fort Worth.

The Navy is keeping sloppy track of its errant shipbuilding and repair contractors – including San Diego's National Steel and Shipbuilding subsidiary of General Dynamics – causing massive cost overruns and chronically crippled vessels, says a new report by the Government Accountability Office.

From aircraft carriers to littoral combat ships, the April 12 report found that taxpayers are being mightily gouged by faulty and delayed repairs, unchecked by designated watchdogs.

Among glaring issues: "Persistent propulsion system problems that significantly limit engine power with ... Littoral Combat Ships."

LCS repair woes have led the Navy to seek cutting nine of the vessels and abolishing anti-submarine missions for the remaining fleet, according to a March 28 Defense News account.

San Diego-based destroyer USS Michael Monsoor had the second-highest repair waiver count.

The hit list includes the San Diego-based USS Fort Worth, the maintenance of which is supposed to be monitored by a Navy unit called Supervisors of Shipbuilding, Conversion and Repair, SUPSHIP for short, based in Bath, Maine.

Though the news hasn't made headlines in San Diego, the Fort Worth's proposed demise has encountered pushback in its namesake town by Republican House member Kay Granger of Texas.

"I think it's absolutely the wrong thing to do," she told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in an April 14 account, adding, "it's fast, it's agile and it's very capable. And it can be used in very specialized missions overseas."

Also on the auditor's list of troubles: "Deficiencies with the CVN 78 aircraft carrier's 11 advanced weapons elevators," which impair "sailors' ability to transport weapons to the aircraft carrier's deck for more than four years after the Navy accepted delivery of the ship."

Yet more hot spots include "Quality issues with a special treatment not adhering to the hulls of Virginia class submarines," which "created challenges in meeting performance requirements and required costly unanticipated maintenance for the Navy."

"Collectively, these results have raised questions about the Navy's ability to effectively oversee shipbuilder performance throughout the construction of new ships."

According to the GAO report, contractors' lack of adequate supervision has resulted in soaring costs for taxpayers and lasting maintenance headaches.

"Navy shipbuilding programs regularly faced cost and schedule growth before ships were accepted into the fleet," says the audit, adding that costs were forced over budget by more than $11 billion over ten years.

In addition, quality has suffered dramatically, as exemplified by rising delays and costs at another General Dynamics facility cited by the auditors.

"General Dynamics-Electric Boat—builder of Virginia and Columbia class submarines, each costing billions of dollars—took about 2½ years to resolve deficiencies for which [The office of Supervisors of Shipbuilding, Conversion and Repair] Groton withheld payments.

"SUPSHIP officials said it took an additional 2½ years to fully validate that the contractor's corrective actions restored system compliance."

Auditors picked a sample of 12 ships delivered since 2017 for a case study, revealing that "the Navy commonly proceeds through the sea trials phase with unresolved construction deficiencies and incomplete work."

According to the report, Navy brass's persistent granting of work repair waivers to repair contractors have added to the problems and created new ones.

The audit found that the San Diego-based USS Michael Monsoor, a Zumwalt class destroyer, had the second-highest repair waiver count, getting 29 during acceptance trials and 18 for ship delivery.

Long a target of critics, the Monsoor had to be towed through the Panama Canal when it broke down during its maiden cruise to San Diego in November 2016 and has since experienced equipment failures.

"Waiving incomplete or deficient equipment through trials and delivery reduces the [Navy's] ability to hold the shipbuilder accountable for timely correction of deficiencies by allowing shipbuilders to deliver ships that have yet to meet requirements.

"Further, [Chief of Naval Operations] approval of waivers for incomplete work reduces the SUPSHIPs' opportunities to interact with the equipment through inspections and testing to better understand its condition prior to ship delivery."

The waivers "also have the potential to mask construction problems with longer-term quality and performance consequences that can limit ship operations for the fleet forces," the report says.

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The hit list includes the San Diego-based USS Fort Worth.
The hit list includes the San Diego-based USS Fort Worth.

The Navy is keeping sloppy track of its errant shipbuilding and repair contractors – including San Diego's National Steel and Shipbuilding subsidiary of General Dynamics – causing massive cost overruns and chronically crippled vessels, says a new report by the Government Accountability Office.

From aircraft carriers to littoral combat ships, the April 12 report found that taxpayers are being mightily gouged by faulty and delayed repairs, unchecked by designated watchdogs.

Among glaring issues: "Persistent propulsion system problems that significantly limit engine power with ... Littoral Combat Ships."

LCS repair woes have led the Navy to seek cutting nine of the vessels and abolishing anti-submarine missions for the remaining fleet, according to a March 28 Defense News account.

San Diego-based destroyer USS Michael Monsoor had the second-highest repair waiver count.

The hit list includes the San Diego-based USS Fort Worth, the maintenance of which is supposed to be monitored by a Navy unit called Supervisors of Shipbuilding, Conversion and Repair, SUPSHIP for short, based in Bath, Maine.

Though the news hasn't made headlines in San Diego, the Fort Worth's proposed demise has encountered pushback in its namesake town by Republican House member Kay Granger of Texas.

"I think it's absolutely the wrong thing to do," she told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in an April 14 account, adding, "it's fast, it's agile and it's very capable. And it can be used in very specialized missions overseas."

Also on the auditor's list of troubles: "Deficiencies with the CVN 78 aircraft carrier's 11 advanced weapons elevators," which impair "sailors' ability to transport weapons to the aircraft carrier's deck for more than four years after the Navy accepted delivery of the ship."

Yet more hot spots include "Quality issues with a special treatment not adhering to the hulls of Virginia class submarines," which "created challenges in meeting performance requirements and required costly unanticipated maintenance for the Navy."

"Collectively, these results have raised questions about the Navy's ability to effectively oversee shipbuilder performance throughout the construction of new ships."

According to the GAO report, contractors' lack of adequate supervision has resulted in soaring costs for taxpayers and lasting maintenance headaches.

"Navy shipbuilding programs regularly faced cost and schedule growth before ships were accepted into the fleet," says the audit, adding that costs were forced over budget by more than $11 billion over ten years.

In addition, quality has suffered dramatically, as exemplified by rising delays and costs at another General Dynamics facility cited by the auditors.

"General Dynamics-Electric Boat—builder of Virginia and Columbia class submarines, each costing billions of dollars—took about 2½ years to resolve deficiencies for which [The office of Supervisors of Shipbuilding, Conversion and Repair] Groton withheld payments.

"SUPSHIP officials said it took an additional 2½ years to fully validate that the contractor's corrective actions restored system compliance."

Auditors picked a sample of 12 ships delivered since 2017 for a case study, revealing that "the Navy commonly proceeds through the sea trials phase with unresolved construction deficiencies and incomplete work."

According to the report, Navy brass's persistent granting of work repair waivers to repair contractors have added to the problems and created new ones.

The audit found that the San Diego-based USS Michael Monsoor, a Zumwalt class destroyer, had the second-highest repair waiver count, getting 29 during acceptance trials and 18 for ship delivery.

Long a target of critics, the Monsoor had to be towed through the Panama Canal when it broke down during its maiden cruise to San Diego in November 2016 and has since experienced equipment failures.

"Waiving incomplete or deficient equipment through trials and delivery reduces the [Navy's] ability to hold the shipbuilder accountable for timely correction of deficiencies by allowing shipbuilders to deliver ships that have yet to meet requirements.

"Further, [Chief of Naval Operations] approval of waivers for incomplete work reduces the SUPSHIPs' opportunities to interact with the equipment through inspections and testing to better understand its condition prior to ship delivery."

The waivers "also have the potential to mask construction problems with longer-term quality and performance consequences that can limit ship operations for the fleet forces," the report says.

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