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Acquisition of the Navy Surface Mine Countermeasure Unmanned Undersea Vehicle (Knifefish) Needs Improvement (Redacted)

DODIG-2017-014

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Objective

We determined whether the Navy effectively established requirements and planned testing to support procuring the Surface Mine Countermeasure Unmanned Undersea Vehicle (Knifefish).

Background

The Knifefish is a self-propelled, untethered, autonomous underwater vehicle designed to find underwater mines. The Knifefish is capable of operating independently in shallow ocean water, and is launched and recovered from the Littoral Combat Ship — a fast, agile ship designed for operations in environments near the shoreline.

Finding

The Navy did not effectively establish capability requirements and plan and execute testing to procure the Knifefish. Specifically, the Knifefish requirements developer (Expeditionary Warfare Division, N95) did not fully define requirements to support the communication interface and launch and recovery operations between the Knifefish system and the Littoral Combat Ship. This occurred because the Knifefish requirements developer and the Littoral Combat Ship requirements developer (Surface Warfare Division, N96) did not coordinate to develop specific Knifefish requirements during the development of the two programs. The lack of coordination resulted in the Knifefish program office issuing engineering change proposals to redesign the Knifefish vehicle to correct communication interface and launch and recovery problems between Knifefish and the Littoral Combat Ship. These engineering change proposals increased program costs by $2.3 million. Additionally, the Knifefish program office did not effectively plan and execute testing because of funding shortfalls, which resulted in a 14-month delay in meeting program milestones. The program office condensed developmental test schedules and combined test events, which puts the program at risk of not being able to correct design problems identified during testing. Uncorrected design problems could jeopardize future testing and could require costly retrofits of the existing structural design of the Knifefish. The Knifefish program is at risk of not being ready for the initial production decision in the fourth quarter of FY 2017. The Knifefish program was estimated to cost approximately $842.5 million1 in research, development, test, and evaluation; procurement; and operational and maintenance funds. As of February 2016, the program office had received approximately $91.0 million of the program’s estimated acquisition program baseline for research, development, test, and evaluation funds. However, the Knifefish program has not demonstrated the system’s ability to perform the key performance parameter of single-pass detection, classification, and identification of bottom and buried mine capabilities. DoD guidance states that a failure to meet a primary requirement threshold (minimum) may result in a reevaluation or reassessment of the program or a modification of the production increments. If the Knifefish cannot meet its primary requirement to detect, classify, and identify mines, the Navy could spend an additional $751.5 million in remaining funds for Knifefish research, development, test, and evaluation; procurement; and operations and maintenance to procure and sustain a system that may not achieve the capability the Navy originally planned.

Recommendations

We recommend that the Director, Expeditionary Warfare Division (N95), coordinate with the Director, Surface Warfare (N96), to develop capability requirements in the Knifefish capability production document relating to communication interface and launch and recovery operations between the Knifefish system and the Littoral Combat Ship. We recommend that the Director, Expeditionary Warfare Division (N95), coordinate with the Program Executive Officer, Littoral Combat Ship, to:  

  • assess and revalidate whether to continue with the Knifefish program as the solution to single‑pass detection, classification, and identification of bottom and buried mines, and if so, fund the program accordingly; or
  • cancel the program, putting $751.5 million in research, development, test, and evaluation; procurement; and operational and maintenance funds to better use.

Management Comments and Our Response

Comments from the Director, Expeditionary Warfare Division (N95), and the Commander, Naval Sea Systems Command, responding for Program Executive Officer, Littoral Combat Ship, partially addressed the recommendations. Specifically, the Director’s comments did not explain how he plans to fully define the Knifefish communication interface and launch and recovery requirements in the capability production document. The Commander’s comments did not explain his plans for assessing the Knifefish program as solution to single-pass detection, classification, and identification of bottom and buried mines. We request additional comments by December 8, 2016.


1 The estimated program cost and funds received were escalated to base-year FY 2017 dollars.