Navy to spend $37B on 'marginally useful' ship

Despite the price, critics say it lacks firepower, survivability and usability.

By Benzinga May 8, 2013 2:04PM
Money falling in a manhole copyright LdF, Vetta, Getty ImagesBy Tim Parker

Let's set the stage. You and your significant other decide to devote a weekend to repainting the family room. It's not an easy task, because the room is large with high ceilings, expensive flooring and a lot of heavy furniture. Not only are you going to paint it, but it's going to have one of those "faux" effects that take twice as long and more money in supplies.

You spend all the money, you invest all the time, and in the end, it looks nothing more than OK.

On a much larger scale, that's exactly what the Navy did with its Littoral Combat Ships, if a recent report from Bloomberg is correct. It seems like a great idea. Make a ship that's able to take on missions near the shore while also being able to operate in open waters.

Equipment could be swapped out, and, thanks to technology, it's manned by a relatively small crew of 40. Even better, the Navy doesn't have to wait years for a new ship. They're designed to be built rapidly.

The problem, according to the report, is that the ships are too thinly manned, there isn't enough firepower, and they are likely too wide to fit into their intended ports. And to paraphrase, the fact that there are two versions of the vessel makes for one big logistical and maintenance nightmare.

Adding to the problems, the Pentagon acknowledges that the vessels are being built with the lowest level of survivability to cut costs. Michael Gilmore, the Pentagon's chief weapons tester, said the vessel "is not expected to be survivable in that it is not expected to maintain mission capability after taking a significant hit in a hostile combat environment."

All this led to Rep. James Moran, D-Va., to refer to the ships as "marginally useful." The report, written in 2012, highlights what the Navy has heard for quite a while, but it isn’t admitting defeat.

Bloomberg reports that Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said the ship started out as a "mess" but has become "one of our best-performing programs."

The Navy has contracts for 20 of the vessels at a cost of $440 million each. Lockheed Martin (LMT) will produce one of the variants, while an Australian company, Austal, will produce the other design. General Electric's (GE) marine unit will supply the engines.

More from Benzinga

Disclosure: At the time of this writing, Tim Parker had no position in any of the securities mentioned and would probably prefer to go to battle on a tuna boat rather than on one of these ships. 

May 8, 2013 3:03PM

We are going to pay Australian workers to build a ship while our own ship builders are laid off??


May 8, 2013 2:23PM
It's always so easy to waste lots of money if it doesn't come out of your own pocket. More government waste on useless crap.
May 8, 2013 3:03PM
It is not waste. It is theft. Generational theft as they steal from our children before they are even old enough to vote.

End borrow and spend tactics now.

May 8, 2013 3:06PM
Anyone else catch it was going to be built in Australia!!!!?????  Why? U.S. taxpayer money going overseas once again!  WE need jobs HERE in the U.S.!!! 
May 8, 2013 2:34PM

Government waste comes at us from all angles. Always!

...and it wears multiple hats!!!

May 8, 2013 3:05PM
This is why government spending is out of control...

More Admirals than Navy ships...  Ships of marginal value right out of the builders yards...

We need to slash Defense spending until the DoD start spending wisely.  We cannot afford these kind of errors and mistakes.  I sure hope some Navy brass are cashiered over this, starting with those that approved it.
May 8, 2013 3:05PM
Government ineptitude at its finest.   WHO ELECTS THESE IDIOTS?!?!?
May 8, 2013 3:18PM
Congress writes all spending bills.  Congress also writes every tax bill.  Congress writs all laws and regulation.  So who never takes credit for screwing up the nation and the economy, Congress.
May 8, 2013 2:53PM
Another defense item being built to "create" jobs in the district. the Navy will take the ship then spend another 50 billion tweaking it to do what they want it to do.
May 8, 2013 3:11PM
Your Congsress at work, buying military toys no one wants because the want to save jobs in their congressional districts despite driving up the national debt.

May 8, 2013 3:12PM

We can see the effects of the Public Option in Defense and Education...  Wait till you Healthcare is under that....
May 8, 2013 3:43PM
For those of you who are a little slow on math, 20 X 440 million equals $8.8 Billion.  Forget welfare queens, medicaid frauds, lazy government employees, & their paltry thousands of dollars.  To really waste money, you need a military contract.
May 8, 2013 3:13PM
Just to stir the pot a bit, the first Littoral ship was commissioned on 8 November 2008.  Normally, it takes design and construction a couple of years, so this floating turkey was asked for and approved by the Defense Department under that brilliant military thinker Donald Rumsfeld.  What a legacy that man has left us.

May 8, 2013 3:29PM
Get ready for the next Tax hike!  Everyone gets affected Except the government and their precious government pensions......Or maybe the morons will just take it from SS and claim the fund is hurting again
May 8, 2013 3:26PM
The decision makers at the Pentagon and salespeople at the defense contractors are buffoons whose minds have been poisoned by buzzwords from the corporate arena. For combat purposes certain things just MUST be purpose built for specific missions. No all purpose thing does one thing very well. Case in point, the A-10 Thunderbolt II ground attack plane which came out of the 1970s. It was designed to have long loiter time, have enhanced survivability of both plane AND pilot, carry massive amounts of ordnance (7 tons), and be easy to operate and maintain in rough, forward areas. They are looking to replace it with the F-22, a stealth capable, air superiority (i.e., fuel gulping) fighter that carries significantly less ordnance. The missions are entirely different as well, meaning it takes two truly different flyers to to do each job well when the chips are down. The littoral combat ship , despite improvements in the gunnery system, is a joke (5inch? Come on). It would've been better to refit the Iowas again with more missile and electronics systems, and develop a destroyer, frigate or cruiser, or even a type of gunboat separately for what the Navy thinks it's lacking.
May 8, 2013 3:25PM
Welfare at One Trillion p/year - 750 billion Fed, 278 billion state - more than our military at 660 billion p/year....when does all this end?
May 8, 2013 3:08PM

Oh come on now...this is just a drop in the bucket. A bucket full of crap that the taxpayers would not buy if they were to decide. What is not seen is even more costly. The wasted material, manpower and talent, that if left in the private sector could have been used to produce goods and services that people need and want. In short wealth.


Oh wait I almost forgot building wealth in the U.S. is punished with taxation at a higher rate than anywhere else on earth. It is also punished by onerous regulation.


Adam Smith wrote of the power of the unseen hand in the market. He wrote of how this helped to create the wealth of nations. Today in America we're being impoverished by the unseen hand of government regulation, waste, and taxation. The chinese will eclipse us within three years as their government seeks way to allow the free market to have a free hand. Here our government seeks to find ever more ways to intervene.  

May 8, 2013 3:15PM
If it won't be designed to survive taking a hit in combat, then hopefully it will have sufficient deensive armanment in order to avoid taking a hit. Better yet, hopefully the Navy will rethink this plan and scrap this design in favor of developing a something that is better designed and will give them a run for their money.
May 8, 2013 3:12PM
I am sure that some politician had his hands in this all he while Federal Employees haven't had a pay raise in three years thanks to congress and the president.
May 8, 2013 3:12PM
 Let me see this shp before commenting.
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