According to a forthcoming Bloomberg News article by David Lerman and Tony Capaccio, the Navy has discovered corrosion problems in the General Dynamics-Austal variant of the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS), which was commissioned less than two years ago. The "aggressive" corrosion was found in the propulsion areas of USS Independence. To permanently repair the corrosion the ship will have to be dry-docked and have its water-jet propulsion system removed, according to a written statement the Navy provided to congressional appropriations committees and Bloomberg News.
This is simply phenomenal considering that the ship completed its maiden voyage in April 2010, just fourteen months ago. This is, however, in line with the LCS programs' history of problems and comes on the heels of major cost overruns, which we documented just two weeks ago. This will likely add to development costs that have already increased 287 percent from baseline estimates, and may add to annual operating costs, already over $36 million per ship, if such aggressive corrosion cannot be prevented.
The timing of this revelation is prescient given that the Senate Armed Services Committee's markup of the FY 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, released today, gives the Pentagon $32.1 million to address "the DoD Corrosion Prevention and Control shortfall in funding requirements." The Pentagon estimates that funding in this area yields an estimated 57:1 return on investment by reducing the costs for repairs and replacements of corroded systems and parts.
Hopefully, the LCS program enjoys a similar return on investment and our close-to-shore ships spend more of their days protecting U.S. interests, not dry-docked.
Ben Freeman is a National Security Fellow for POGO.
Image by Flickr user Surface Forces, used under Creative Commons License.