Ship Self Defense: Program Priorities Are Questionable

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1997-08-15.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

      United States
GAO   General Accounting  Office
      Washington, D.C. 20548

      National Security and
      International ABairs Division


      Au,@& 15, 1997

      The Honorable William S. Cohen
      The Secretary of Defense

      Subject: Shin Self Defense: Program Priorities Are Questionable

      Dear Mr. Secretary:

      As part of our review of the Navy’s Ship Self-Defense Program, we (1) reviewed
      annual Ship Self-Defense and Antiair Warfare Defense FYogram progress reports
      to Congress, (2) analyzed the Navy’s plans for improving ship self-defense
      capabilities, (3) determined the extent to which scheduled improvements on
      various ship classes are meeting n-&icated priorities, and (4) sought infomation
      on the Navg’s costs for implementing the program.

      Our preliminary findings m&ate that Congress.may be relying upon inaccurate
      information when evaluating the Ship Self-Defense Program’s progress and
      when it formulates future Gnancial investments in shipboard antiair warfare
      defense capabilities. We found that the status of the Ship Self-Defense Program
      is dif6cult to determine from the various plans, reports, and financial
      documents we examined. Additionally, scheduled improvements do not appear
      to follow program priorities. Because Navy officials were unable to provide
      complete information on the program’s implementation costs, we were unable
      to analyze the costs and benefits of this program. The Program Executive
      OEce for Theater Air Defense, by reporting inaccurate information and
      providing inadequate financial data, may not be exercising the oversight
      necessary to accomplish established program objectives and priorities.

      The purpose of this letter is to elicit your views on the questions raised in this
      letter and the actions you have taken, or plan to take to resolve them. To that
      end, we ask that you or your designee respond to the questions at the end of
      this letter within 30 days of its date.

                                                        GAO/NSIAD-97-193X   Ship Self-Defense

On May 17, 1987, the U.S.S. Stark, a guided missile frigate operating
independently in the Persian Gulf, was hit by two French Exocet missiles Iired
by a “Jiiendly” Iraqi aircraft. The explosion and resulting fires from these
unexpected shots claimed the lives of 37 crew members. The Navy spent
millions of dollars on repairs that took months to complete before the Stark
was again operational. Today, nearly 70 nations deploy sea- and land-based
antiship cruise missiles, and more than 20 different countries possess air-
launched missiles equal to or more capable than those used against the Stark.

After the Stark incident, the Congress directed the Department of Defense to
improve Navy ships’self-defense against extremely fast, highly maneuverable,
sea-skimming, low-observable, and proliferating antiship cruise missiles. The
Congress also directed the Secretary of the Navy to report the status of ship
self-defense efforts annually, through fiscal year 1999, to congressional defense

In response to Congress’direction, the Navy’s Program Executive Office for
Theater Air Defense initiated several efforts to counter existing and emerging
antiship cruise missile threats. Among the many efforts are three major
initial&es to improve ship survivability against existing and emerging ant&hip
cruise missile threats. First, the Navy installed a radar absorbent material on
guided missile ligates, destroyers, and Aegis cruisers to increase their
survivability by making them less detectable by airborne radar. Second, the
Navy installed the Rapid Anti-Ship Missile Integrated Defense System, a tactical
decision aid, on 24 destroyers and plans to in&ill it on 12 guided missile
frigates. It provides continuous tactical information; can prioritize up to six
 defensive measures, including weapon engagements; and makes steering and
 maneuvering recommendations, all of which must be manually activated.
 However, it does not fully integrate or automate sensors and weapon systems.
 Third, the Navy installed the Ship Self-Defense System Mark I/Quick Reaction
 Combat Capability, a system that fully integrates sensors with weapons through
 a fiber-optic local area network, on a single amphibious cargo ship. It also
 plans to install the system on additional amphibious ships and aircraft carriers.
 This system automatically coordinates sensor information; identifies and
 evaluates  potential threats; assesses the readiness of shipboard defenses; and
 executes   specac tactical procedures, including weapon assignment and
 engagement commands. Unlike the Rapid Anti-Ship Missile Integrated Defense
 System, the Ship Self-Defense System Mark I/Quick Reaction Combat Capability
 can detect, identify, track, engage, and defeat antiship cruise missile threats
 with virixally no human intervention if the system is operating in the full
 automatic mode.

2                                                 GAO/NSIAD-97195R   Ship Self-Defense

         The Navy provided three annual reports on its ship self-defense efforts to
         congressional defense committees, as required by the fiscal year 1995 House
         Armed Services Committee Report 103-4991. However, these reports do not
         provide complete and accurate program information needed to fully inform
         Congress about the program’s progress and cost Consequently, it is diB%xlt to
         know (1) how many ships received passive countermeasure improvements to
         reduce dete&biIity by airborne radar, (2) how many will receive the Rapid
         Anti-Ship Missile Integrated Defense System, or (3) which ship classes will
         receive the Ship Self-Defense System Mark VQuick Reaction Combat Capability.
         Further, the reports do not contain performance and cost data needed ,$o
         determine whether ships’ survivability against antiship cruise missiles has
         actud3y improved.

         For example, the 1996 and 1997 reports do not clearly identify which ships
         have the radar absorbent material installed and which ships are scheduled to
         receive it in future years. Specifically, the 1996 and 1997 reports show that the
         Navy has made this improvement to four more ships than reported to us in
         April 1997. Moreover, the Navy reported to Congress that four guided missile
         destroyers will receive the radar absorbent material by acal year 2001.
         However, the Navy’s plans provided to us do not indicate that the four guided
         missile destroyers were scheduled to receive this improvement. The reports to
         Congress do not discuss how effective TV application was by quantifying actual
         radar cross-section reductions or provide total material and installation costs by
         ship class.

         Further, the 1997 report indicates that the Navy would complete Rapid Anti-Ship
         Missile Integrated Defense System installations on 25 destroyers by the end of
         I&al year 1997. However, data provided by the Naval Surface Warfare Center
         responsible for system ins&Rations ?&cates that only 24 destroyers, those with
         Vertical Launch Systems used to fire Tomahawk missiles, would receive the
         improvement None of the reports discuss system effectiveness or provide
         evidence indicating that ships’ survivability against exisung missile threats has
         improved. The reports do not address what the Navy intends to do, if anything,
         to correct recurring system failures based upon commercial-off-the-shelf
         software and shipboard hardware incompatibility. Equipment and installation
         costs were not included in any of the three reports.

‘The House Armed Services Committee is now the House National Security Committee.
         3                                                 GAOMUD-97-195R   ship Self-Defense
Furthermore, the 1995, 1996, and 1997 reports to Congress indicate that the
Navy planned to install the Ship Self-Defense System Mark I/Quick Reaction
Combat Capability on two amphibious assault ship classes. The January 1997
ship self-defense procurement schedule also indicates that the Navy planned to
procure and install this system on both amphibious assault ship classes.
However, a Navy official told us that only one amphibious assault ship class is
currently scheduled to receive the system. Planning documents also indicate
that the Navy planned to install the Ship Self-Defense System Mark I/Quick
Reaction Combat Capability on eight fast combat support ships typically
assigned to carrier battle groups to support the Navy’s expeditionary capability.
The 1996 report to Congress stresses that these replenishment ships are key
elements of U.S. joint expeditionary forces, which must be able to go in “harm’s
way” to achieve mission success. However, these reports do not provide
information indicating if or when these support ships will receive the self-
defense capability. In essence, the reports lack critical data needed to guide
future operational and budgetary considerations and frequently conflict with
Navy planning documents.


The Surface Ship Combat System Master Plan, the Integrated Ship Defense
Information Hook, and Ship Self-Defense Program internal planning documents
contain matrices that list which ship self-defense elements the Navy installed or
plans to install on every surface ship and aircraft carrier. However, we found
that these documents were inconsistent, inaccurate, and lacked information
needed to determine whether ship self-defense elements have been installed or
were scheduled to be installed on specific ship classes. For example, after
reconciling the February 1996 Surface Ship Combat System Master Plan with
the April 1996 Integrated Ship Defense Information Book, we provided Navy
officials with a list of inconsistencies, indicating errors in either or both
documents. A Navy official, in turn, gave us a bst of corrections to be
incorporated in future Master Plans and Information Hooks. However, the more
recent October 1996 Integrated Ship Defense Information Book contains very
few of the listed corrections and, in fact, includes additional errors. For
example, ship self-defense elements reported as instahed in the April 1996 book
were reported as planned in the October 1996 book Only 38 percent of the
ship self-defense information on planned improvements, presented in tabular
format, is consistent in both the October 1996 Integrated Ship Defense
Information Book matrix and the February 1997 Surface Ship Combat System
Master Plan matrix. For example, the master plan matrix correctly indicates
 that the NATO Sea Sparrow Missile System was on destroyers, while the
information book matrix does not show this system as fielded on the same

4                                                GAONZAD-97-195R   Ship Se&Defense
Further, in trying to reconcile the October 1996 Integrated Ship Defense
Infomation    Book with the February 1997 Surface Ship Combat System Master
Plan, we found that both the April and October 1996 Integrated Ship Defense
Information Books erroneously indicate that the Navy installed the Evolved Sea
Sparrow Missile on five fast combat support ships, even +hough the missile
system has not entered production. The Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile Milestone
III production decision is not expected until fiscal year 1999, and the Initial
Operational Capability milestone is not scheduled until fiscal year 2000. Also,
the April and October 1996 Integrated Ship Defense Information Books contain
no information about radar absorbent mater&l instdllations, although Navy
officials provided data indicating that 47 ships have the improvement and 13
additional ships are scheduled for future installations. In our opinion, the
Program Executive Of&e for Theater Air Defense cannot effectively
monitor and guide the Ship Self-Defense Program without complete and
accurate information.


Although the Chief of Naval Operations, after approving the Ship Self Defense
Capstone Warfighting Requirements, directed that defense capabilities of
amphibious ships be strengthened, the Navy may not instaR the Ship Self-
Defense System Mark I/Quick Reaction Combat Capability on five Tarawa class
amphibious assault ships. The Navy made this decision, even though these
ships typically carry over’2,600 sailors and Ma&es. They also protide
significant military lift and Marine air capability during operations in littoral
regions well within range of land-launched antiship cruise missile threats.
Instead, the Navy plans to spend $6.8 million to install this improvement on the
U.S,S. John F. Kenne& and the U.S.S. Kittv Hawk, two aging fossil-fueled
carriers with significantly less service life left. The carriers will be 34 and 42
years old, respectively, when the installations occur in fiscal years 2002 and
2003. The Kittv Hawk is scheduIed to be replaced by a newly commissioned
carrier within 5 years of the installation. The Kennedv is currently slated to
serve as a trainmg carrier operating off the coast of Florida.

Further, only one amphibious cargo ship, the U.S.S. Ashland, has the system.
According to Navy plans, the system will not be completely fielded on all
applicable amphibious ship classes and Nimitz-elass aircraft carriers until fiscal
year 2007 or later. Additionally, destroyers and guided missile frigates, which
routinely operate in “harm’s way,” wilI not have this fully integrated   and
automated self-defense capability. Instead, these surface combatants will rely
upon the Rapid Anti-Ship Missile Integrated Defense System to provide
maneuvering and weapon-cuing recommendations to counter antistip cruise
missile threats. This system does not provide an automatic weapons

5                                                 GAO/NSIAD-97-195R   Ship Self-Defense
engagement capability. Thus, the commanding officer must still give the order
to Sre if individual weapon systems are not in automatic mode, signifkantly
affectig the time needed to react to extremely fast antiship cruise missiles.


During our review, we requested historical, current, and projected program cost
data from the Program Executive Office for Theater Air Defense. We compared
the cost data provided with the Department of Defense Future Years Defense
Program cost data and determined that the Financial information do not agree.
This confiicting data raises questions about the reliability and accuracy of
fkxuxial and budgetary information reported in various program status reports.
This data is intended to support the Congress in overseeing the Ship Self-
Defense Program.

We also obtained historical as well as estimated future cost data from the
Department of Defense F’uture Years Defense Program. We found that, during
fiscal years 1987 through 1996, the Navy spent over $8 billion on efforts to
improve ship self-defense capabilities on surface combatants, amphibious ships,
and aircraft carriers. The Program Executive Office for Theater Air Defense
could not provide program costs prior to fiscal year 1990. However, it reported
program costs of nearly $4.4 billion during fiscal years 1990-96. In contrast,
Future Years Defense Program costs totaled about $7.3 billion, or almost $2.9
billion more, for the same period Further, the 1997 Report on Ship Anti-Air
Warfare Defense indicates the Navy plans to spend approximately $4.3 billion
on ship self-defense improvements in fiscal years 1997 through 2003. This
projected expenditure is about $900 million more than the $3.4 billion estimate
provided by the Program Executive O&e for Theater Air Defense for the same


Agency officials explained that the inconsistencies we identif?ed in program
information and financial data were the direct result of budget instabKfi@. They
said that fiscal cuts, modifications, and changes in priorities created dif?iculties
and led to inconsistent program documentation because original plans and
milestones were changed. According to these officials, it has been diflicdt to
execute and correctly document this program because its budget has been
consmtly changing. Although we agree that frequent changes in program
funding can create instability in program plans, this condition does not just@
presentig inaccurate and inconsistent program and fmancial data to Congress.

6                                                  GAO/MIA.D-97-195R   Ship Self-Defense
Therefore, we are asking you to respond to the following questions:

1. A comprehensive ship self-defense plan could be used to guide, monitor, and
report progress in relation to specific program objectives and priorities. Why
hasn’t the Program Executive Office for Theater Air Defense developed such a

2. The Program Executive Office for Theater Air Defense plans to install the
Ship Self-Defense Mark I/Quick Reaction Combat Capability on two aircraft
carriers rather than the Tarawa class amphibious assault ships. Why was this
decision made when the carriers are scheduled to be retied soon after the
ins&&&ion and/or will not be used in combatant roles?

3. How do current naval threat priorities relate to decisions on which ships will
receive the Ship Self-Defense System Mark YQuick Reaction Combat Capability?

4. What actions have you taken or do you plan to take to respond to these


For our review, we interviewed officials from the Navy’s Program Executive
Off2ceITheater Air Defense for Ship Self Defense; Naval Surface Warfare
CenterIPort Hueneme Division; Land-Based Facility at Wallops Island; Naval
Warke Assessment Divisiorq Applied Physics Lab/Johns Hopkins University;
Command for Operational Testing and Evaluation Force; and the Center for
Naval Analysis. We also received threat brieIings Tom the Office of Naval
Intelligence, the Defense hrtelligence Agency, and the Central Intelligence

We also examined internal procurement and installation schedules, verified the
existence of sensors and weapon systems on Navy surface ships and an aircraft
carrier, toured the Self Defense Test Ship, observed a Ship Self-Defense System
Mark If/Quick Reaction Combat Capability demonstration, and compared Ship
Self Defense Program cost information contained in the fiture-Year Defense
Plan and Presidential Budget Submit for Fiscal Year 1998 with cost data
provided by the Program Executive Office for Theater Air Defense. Our review
was conducted from July 1996 through June 1997 in accordance with generally
accepted government auditing standards.

We are providing copies of this letter to congressional committees of
jurisdiction, the Secretary of the Navy, and the Director of the OfGee of

7                                                GAONXAD-97-195R   Sh.ip Self-Defense
Management and Budget. This letter and your response will be provided to
others upon request.

E you have any questions, please contact me or William C. Meredith, Assistant
Director, at (202) 512-5140.

Sincerely yours,

Mark E. Ge%cke
Director, Military Operations
 and Capabilities Issues


8                                               GAO/NSIAD-97-195R   Ship Self-Defense
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