Consider the case of the Navy’s Zumwalt-class destroyer in Case Study 14.3. Take the position that terminating this project after having invested so much in research and development represented a good or bad decision by the Navy. Argue your case. Case Study 14.3 The Navy Scraps Development of Its Showpiece Warship—Until the Next Bad Idea In midsummer 2008, the U.S. Navy announced its decision to cancel the DDG 1000 Zumwalt destroyer, after the first two were completed at shipyards in Maine and Mississippi. This decision, originally stated as due to the ship’s high construction cost, points to a highly controversial and, it could be argued, poor scope management process since the beginning. The Zumwalt class of destroyers was conceived for a unique role. They were to operate close offshore (in what is referred to as the littoral environment) and provide close-in bombardment support against enemy targets, using their 155-millimeter guns and cruise missiles. With a displacement of 14,500 tons and a length of 600 feet, the ships have a crew of only 142 people due to advanced automated systems used throughout. Additional features of the Zumwalt class include advanced “dual-band” radar systems for accurate targeting and fire support, as well as threat identification and tracking. The sonar is also considered superior for tracking submarines in shallow, coastal waterways. However, the most noticeable characteristic of the Zumwalt class was the decision to employ “stealth” technology in its design, in order to make the destroyer difficult for enemy radar to track. This technology included the use of composite, “radarabsorbing” materials and a unique, wave-piercing hull design. Thus, the Zumwalt, in development since the late 1990s, was poised to become the newest and most impressive addition to the Navy’s fleet. Unfortunately, the ship was hampered from the beginning by several fundamental flaws. First, its price tag, which was originally expected to be nearly $2.5 billion per vessel, ballooned to an estimated $5 billion for each ship. In contrast, the Navy’s current stateof-the-art Arleigh Burke class of destroyers cost $1.3 billion per ship. Cost overruns became so great that the original 32 ships of the Zumwalt class the Navy intended to build were first reduced to 12 and then to seven. Finally, after another congressional review, the third destroyer in the class, to be built at Maine’s Bath Iron Works, was funded with the proviso that this would be the last built, effectively killing the program after three destroyers were completed. The first ship of the class was christened in April 2014 at the Bath Iron Works shipyard and is expected to be delivered to the Navy in September. In addition to the high cost, of significantly more concern were the design and conceptual flaws in the Zumwalt destroyers, a topic the Navy has been keen to avoid until recently. For example, the ship is not fitted with an effective antiship missile system. In other words, the Zumwalt cannot defend itself against ballistic antiship missiles. Considering that the mission of the Zumwalt is close-in support and shore bombardment, the inability to effectively defend itself against antiship missiles is a critical flaw. Critics have contended that the Navy knew all along that the Zumwalt could not employ a reasonable antiship missile defense. The Navy argues that the ship can carry such missiles of its own but acknowledges that it cannot guide those missiles toward a target. This raises the question: If these ships need nonstealth vessels around them for protection against incoming threats, what is the point of creating a stealth ship in the first place? Another problem has emerged from a closer examination of the role the Navy envisioned for the Zumwalt. If its main purpose was truly to serve as an offshore bombardment platform, why use it at all? Couldn’t carrier-based aircraft hit these targets just as easily? How about GPS-guided cruise missiles? The then-deputy chief of naval operations, Vice Admiral Barry McCullough, conceded this critical point in acknowledging, “With the accelerated advancement of precision munitions and targeting, excess fire capacity already exists from tactical aviation.” In other words, why take the chance of exposing nearly defenseless ships near enemy shorelines to destroy the same targets that air power can eliminate at much lower risk? In short, despite initially protesting that the Zumwalt was a crucial new weapon platform to support the Navy’s role, critics and the Navy’s own analysis have confirmed that the DDG 1000 destroyer class represents an investment in risky technology based on a questionable need. It is too expensive, cannot adequately defend itself, and is intended to do a job for which other options are better suited. The cancellation of the Zumwalt destroyer project was ultimately the correct decision, albeit a tardy one, in that it has cost the American taxpayers an estimated $13 billion in R&D and budget funding to build three ships that are likely to have no immediate or useful role in the near future. Sadly, it is debatable whether the Navy truly learned the hard lessons of the Zumwalt destroyer development, as its newest generation of ship, the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS), is currently being subjected to the same kind of scrutiny and criticism that characterized the long controversy of the Zumwalt. For example, with initial cost overruns corrected, the LCS class is estimated to cost $400 million per ship, which is a substantial savings over the DDG1000. However, critics charge that, as with the Zumwalt destroyer, the Navy continues to cram too much cutting-edge and unproven technology into the ships, without a clear sense of the mission they were designed to undertake. Small and fragile, critics have contended that even the Navy’s own assessment admits that placing these craft in harm’s way will invite severe problems, with one report concluding, “LCS is not expected to be survivable in a hostile combat environment . . . .” Finally, the decision to continue making hull and weapon modifications to the ship, even as the first of the class are in production, leads to concern about the stability of the program. Will the missions the latter ships are capable of performing even resemble the role designed for them today? Although the Navy envisioned building 52 of the craft, current plans are to limit production to 32, with senior Congressmen demanding that no more than 24 ever be produced. Over budget, with a toocomplicated design and uncertain mission capabilities—it appears that the LCS is taking the place of the Zumwalt, with the Navy still relearning its lessons.31 Questions 1. The U.S. Department of Defense has a long history of sponsoring projects that have questionable usefulness. If you were assigned as a member of a project review team for a defense project, what criteria would you insist such a project has in order to be supported? In other words, what are the bare essentials needed to support such a project? 2. Why, in your opinion, is there such a long history of defense projects overshooting their budgets or failing some critical performance metrics? (Consider other project cases in this text, including the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle discussed in Chapter 5.) 3. “The mystery is not that the Zumwalt was canceled. The mystery is why it took so long for it to be canceled.” Do you agree with this assessment? Why or why not? 4. Google “criticisms of the Littoral Combat Ship” and identify some of the problems that critics have listed. In light of these problems, why do you think the Navy has pressed ahead with the development of the LCS?
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