US Navy cost increases are worse than the US healthcare system

In 2006, the RAND corporation found that from 1965-2005 the US Navy had 7-11% annual inflation for its ships which is worse than the inflation for US college tuition and US healthcare. This was before the Zumwalt destroyers (aka DDX) came in at $7.5 billion each compared to the previous destroyer at $1-2 billion each. Only 3 Zumwalts will be built and they have loads of technical and operational problems. Those were the high function and high cost end of the high-low mix of ships planned in 2006.

High costs and massive technical flaws and under-performance

The low-end was the LCS (Littoral Combat Ship). The LCS will be a $20+ billion failure. The inexpensive ships are coming at over $600 million each. They can barely operate 30 days before a major systems failure.

The LCS has aluminum hulls and are lightly armed with virtually no useful weapons. One LCS tested a Harpoon anti-ship missile, but wider use among the LCS will probably not happen. The ships are armed with Hellfire missiles that don’t have enough range or a large enough warhead to win battles. The Navy was going to build 52 LCS and now will build 40.

The LCS was going to deliver special operation forces for anti-terrorism. It would then change a mission module and hunt for mines or submarines. The modules were a huge disappointment. The LCS was supposed to be more automated and have smaller crews. Crew sizes have been increased because the automation was a disappointment. The GAO also found that both designs were overweight and under performing.

Both the high-end and low-end ships did not work and ended up costing double already high costs.

The US Navy will try to start building twenty new guided missile frigates starting in 2020. The Navy wants to keep costs below $950 million each. Two of the bidders are the US companies (Lockheed and Austal) behind two versions of the LCS. The first ship is to be delivered in 2020 and then two per year from 2021-2030. There will be no new technology in the FFX ships.

The US DDG 51 (Burke) destroyers cost $1.75 billion each.

Chinese ships are about 5 times lower cost than comparable US ships

China is building about 32 Type 054A or Type 054A+ frigates. China is claiming a cost of about $200 million each, but The Diplomat estimates the cost at $348 million.

The follow up Chinese frigate will be the Type 054B and it will have a full electric propulsion system.

Navy talks about lacking numbers of ships but cannot fix their cost disaster

Other European countries can build ships at 2-5 times lower cost than the US is able. Those European ships have modern electronics, systems and weapons.

The Navy procurement has been badly broken for decades but it has become a farce in the last 15 years. It is also a tragedy for the American taxpayer.

We have talked by the Air Force, Navy and Marine F35 problem before and will again as that $1-2 trillion joke continues.

15 thoughts on “US Navy cost increases are worse than the US healthcare system”

  1. Hopefully Trump or congress or both bring this into the lime light. This kinda crap has been going on for a decades these companies building our military machines have been flat out STEALING from the American people and have been getting away with it. I love our military and want it to remain the best the world has ever seen. But that doesn’t mean you just let contractors take you to the cleaners while they deliver a sub-par product. Cost-plus contracts must end!

    Reply
  2. The problems go so deep they may be unfixable without a complete overhaul of American society. 1. Our STEM education sucks. Whatever boost we got in the Apollo years from the space race is long gone, and the education system has been so under-funded and neglected for so long it can barely turn out literate and numerate students. This is the core of the Engineer class one needs to build anything, let alone complex weapon systems. 2. The entire MIC is thoroughly inefficient and politicized, with factories spread to every Congressional district in order to secure funding, not to build ships and planes and tanks in the most efficient semi-centralized manner possible. It’s about covering your bases, not creating systems. 3. Everything has been outsourced and core competence is all but gone. The Pentagon can’t account for $20t over the last couple of decades. Yes, that’s ‘t’ for trillion. The GAO can’t even begin to audit them, so the problem is probably even worse. Meanwhile, there is no one left who really understands what things should cost and how to hold thousands of subcontractors to account. 4. Weapon development takes too dang long, spanning well past multiple political administrations. The complexity and cost overruns guarantee lengthening the process even more. 5. Automation is over-relied on. The Pentagon is caught up in its technical pipe dreams, ignoring the real requirements of messy battlefields. This is also why we can’t win wars against even lightly armed 3rd world insurgents too. We over-rely on air forces and lose on the ground, where all wars must be won eventually. This causes endless wars like our longest two wars, Afghanistan and Iraq, still going on. We don’t know how to win, nor are we even motivated to anymore. 6. Congress has abdicated its responsibility to authorize and even evaluate committing to war. It gives a blank check to the Executive branch, year after year, afraid to close factories in their own districts with no

    Reply
  3. So while I agree with most of this here is the thing. The European ships for the most part have the same problems. Look at the Germans. The problem is the US needs are Fundamentally different compared to the European powers. Most European ships are short legged as far as time away from port than US ships. Which is Ironic as the LCS was designed to be the same way…just not as bad as actual cost ended up being. A major part is the massive illogical idea’s of the senior Admirals and government officials. Also we got rid of our Naval ship building and design group. It went ALL civilian. Me I have always been a fan of the Absolon class and its sister classes. They are basically the ships we should have had instead of the LCS. Hell even the LCS was supposed to be a different ship. Anyways its all stupid and complicated….which just kind of angers me.

    Reply
  4. Hopefully Trump or congress, or both, bring this into the lime light. This kinda crap has been going on for a decades, these companies building our military machines have been flat out STEALING from the American people, and have been getting away with it. I love our military, and want it to remain the best the world has ever seen. But that doesn’t mean you just let contractors take you to the cleaners, while they deliver a sub-par product. Cost-plus contracts must end!

    Reply
  5. The problems go so deep they may be unfixable without a complete overhaul of American society.1. Our STEM education sucks. Whatever boost we got in the Apollo years from the space race is long gone and the education system has been so under-funded and neglected for so long it can barely turn out literate and numerate students. This is the core of the Engineer class one needs to build anything let alone complex weapon systems.2. The entire MIC is thoroughly inefficient and politicized with factories spread to every Congressional district in order to secure funding not to build ships and planes and tanks in the most efficient semi-centralized manner possible. It’s about covering your bases not creating systems.3. Everything has been outsourced and core competence is all but gone. The Pentagon can’t account for $20t over the last couple of decades. Yes that’s ‘t’ for trillion. The GAO can’t even begin to audit them so the problem is probably even worse. Meanwhile there is no one left who really understands what things should cost and how to hold thousands of subcontractors to account.4. Weapon development takes too dang long spanning well past multiple political administrations. The complexity and cost overruns guarantee lengthening the process even more. 5. Automation is over-relied on. The Pentagon is caught up in its technical pipe dreams ignoring the real requirements of messy battlefields. This is also why we can’t win wars against even lightly armed 3rd world insurgents too. We over-rely on air forces and lose on the ground where all wars must be won eventually. This causes endless wars like our longest two wars Afghanistan and Iraq still going on. We don’t know how to win nor are we even motivated to anymore.6. Congress has abdicated its responsibility to authorize and even evaluate committing to war. It gives a blank check to the Executive branch year after year afraid to close factories in their own districts with no r

    Reply
  6. So while I agree with most of this here is the thing. The European ships for the most part have the same problems. Look at the Germans. The problem is the US needs are Fundamentally different compared to the European powers.Most European ships are short legged as far as time away from port than US ships. Which is Ironic as the LCS was designed to be the same way…just not as bad as actual cost ended up being. A major part is the massive illogical idea’s of the senior Admirals and government officials.Also we got rid of our Naval ship building and design group. It went ALL civilian.Me I have always been a fan of the Absolon class and its sister classes. They are basically the ships we should have had instead of the LCS. Hell even the LCS was supposed to be a different ship.Anyways its all stupid and complicated….which just kind of angers me.

    Reply
  7. Design by committee is a massive problem as well. Scope creep, conflicting requirements, etc. Look at the LCS as an example – it was supposed to be a fast, short-legged, low-cost ship tp fight in the littorals. ORNL designed and built the Sea Fighter as an example. The entire program cost less than $200 million, including R&D and construction. But then take a good concept, and possibly good tactics and strategy, and try to make it do more than it should. See also the F-35. Another problem is that R&D is tied to individual systems programs, instead of trying to stabilize technology via pure R&D contracts, we insert massive risk into our purchasing of frontline equipment.

    Reply
  8. Design by committee is a massive problem as well. Scope creep conflicting requirements etc. Look at the LCS as an example – it was supposed to be a fast short-legged low-cost ship tp fight in the littorals. ORNL designed and built the Sea Fighter as an example. The entire program cost less than $200 million including R&D and construction. But then take a good concept and possibly good tactics and strategy and try to make it do more than it should.See also the F-35.Another problem is that R&D is tied to individual systems programs instead of trying to stabilize technology via pure R&D contracts we insert massive risk into our purchasing of frontline equipment.

    Reply
  9. Design by committee is a massive problem as well. Scope creep, conflicting requirements, etc. Look at the LCS as an example – it was supposed to be a fast, short-legged, low-cost ship tp fight in the littorals. ORNL designed and built the Sea Fighter as an example. The entire program cost less than $200 million, including R&D and construction. But then take a good concept, and possibly good tactics and strategy, and try to make it do more than it should.

    See also the F-35.

    Another problem is that R&D is tied to individual systems programs, instead of trying to stabilize technology via pure R&D contracts, we insert massive risk into our purchasing of frontline equipment.

    Reply
  10. The problems go so deep they may be unfixable without a complete overhaul of American society.
    1. Our STEM education sucks. Whatever boost we got in the Apollo years from the space race is long gone, and the education system has been so under-funded and neglected for so long it can barely turn out literate and numerate students. This is the core of the Engineer class one needs to build anything, let alone complex weapon systems.
    2. The entire MIC is thoroughly inefficient and politicized, with factories spread to every Congressional district in order to secure funding, not to build ships and planes and tanks in the most efficient semi-centralized manner possible. It’s about covering your bases, not creating systems.
    3. Everything has been outsourced and core competence is all but gone. The Pentagon can’t account for $20t over the last couple of decades. Yes, that’s ‘t’ for trillion. The GAO can’t even begin to audit them, so the problem is probably even worse. Meanwhile, there is no one left who really understands what things should cost and how to hold thousands of subcontractors to account.
    4. Weapon development takes too dang long, spanning well past multiple political administrations. The complexity and cost overruns guarantee lengthening the process even more.
    5. Automation is over-relied on. The Pentagon is caught up in its technical pipe dreams, ignoring the real requirements of messy battlefields. This is also why we can’t win wars against even lightly armed 3rd world insurgents too. We over-rely on air forces and lose on the ground, where all wars must be won eventually. This causes endless wars like our longest two wars, Afghanistan and Iraq, still going on. We don’t know how to win, nor are we even motivated to anymore.
    6. Congress has abdicated its responsibility to authorize and even evaluate committing to war. It gives a blank check to the Executive branch, year after year, afraid to close factories in their own districts with no real peacetime manufacturing economy anymore to replace closed military bases, and no jobs programs to replace military enrollment.
    7. Our military goals are unclear and obsolete. Is NATO necessary? Is Russia the main threat or is international terrorism? What is the long-term game plan for the later and are the weapon systems we have useful or just stirring up more enemies? This gets into policy, but it effects the efficiency of military spending indirectly too.

    It’s a total SNAFU.

    Reply
  11. So while I agree with most of this here is the thing. The European ships for the most part have the same problems. Look at the Germans. The problem is the US needs are Fundamentally different compared to the European powers.

    Most European ships are short legged as far as time away from port than US ships. Which is Ironic as the LCS was designed to be the same way…just not as bad as actual cost ended up being. A major part is the massive illogical idea’s of the senior Admirals and government officials.

    Also we got rid of our Naval ship building and design group. It went ALL civilian.

    Me I have always been a fan of the Absolon class and its sister classes. They are basically the ships we should have had instead of the LCS.

    Hell even the LCS was supposed to be a different ship.

    Anyways its all stupid and complicated….which just kind of angers me.

    Reply
  12. Hopefully Trump or congress, or both, bring this into the lime light. This kinda crap has been going on for a decades, these companies building our military machines have been flat out STEALING from the American people, and have been getting away with it. I love our military, and want it to remain the best the world has ever seen. But that doesn’t mean you just let contractors take you to the cleaners, while they deliver a sub-par product. Cost-plus contracts must end!

    Reply

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