Following on the demise of the Arsenal Ship and DD-21, the suspension of construction of a second Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) by each of its two shipbuilders suggests that the United States can no longer build a new class of surface warship. The LCS debacle is the result of dozens of failures, but the chief culprit is the acquisition philosophy and related organizational changes begun after the Goldwater-Nichols Act that shifted shipbuilding from a technical exercise in ship construction into a financial accounting enterprise. This blunder was then aggravated by theorists with little technical foundation who declared in essence that "Everything is better managed by industry than by government" while denouncing military specifications as bureaucratic obstacles to progress. The resulting decay in the competence of the Navy to design and then oversee construction of warships has led to the present imbroglio.
Building a Small Surface Warship Mission Impossible?
The Navy's dilemma with the littoral combat ship construction program is rooted in deep institutional problems based on choices made over the previous two decades. It could take another generation to set things right.
By Rear Admiral William J. Holland Jr. USN (Ret.)