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Expeditionary Fast Transport Capabilities DODIG-2018-107

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Objective:

We determined whether the Department of the Navy (Navy) achieved the performance capabilities for the Expeditionary Fast Transport (EPF) program. 

Background:

The EPF vessel, formerly named the Joint High Speed Vessel, is an aluminum catamaran capable of transferring personnel and cargo.  The EPF vessel will be used to transport personnel, supplies, and equipment in support of a wide range of military and civilian contingencies, evacuations, and disaster relief. 

The Program Executive Office Ships (PEO Ships) manages the design and construction of destroyers, amphibious ships, special mission and support ships, and all Navy non-nuclear surface ships.  The Strategic and Theater Sealift Program Office (Program Office) reports to PEO Ships and manages the $2 billion EPF program through vessel delivery.  Since 2008, the Navy has purchased 12 EPF vessels from Austal USA.  Austal USA is a global defense prime contractor that designs and manufactures commercial and defense ships.

As of August 2017, the Navy accepted delivery of eight EPF vessels.  Upon acceptance, the Navy transferred the EPF vessels to the Military Sealift Command (MSC).  The MSC is responsible for the operation and sustainment of the EPF vessel, including any changes made to the EPF vessel after it is accepted.  Austal USA is currently constructing four EPF vessels and expects to deliver the final EPF vessel in FY 2019.

Commander, Operational Test and Evaluation Force (COMOPTEVFOR) is the independent test agency that tests and evaluates the Navy’s warfighting capabilities under realistic operational conditions to determine the systems’ effectiveness, suitability, and impact on mission accomplishment. 

COMOPTEVFOR completed the initial operational test and evaluation of the EPF program in January 2014.  The initial operational test and evaluation is conducted to determine whether systems are operationally effective and suitable.  In April 2015, COMOPTEVFOR completed the follow-on operational test and evaluation.  The follow-on operational test and evaluation reviews system changes and verifies that the program continues to meet operational needs and retains its effectiveness in new environments or against new threats.  During these tests, COMOPTEVFOR identified deficiencies.  As part of the verification of deficiencies process, COMOPTEVFOR confirms that deficiencies were corrected.

Finding:

Program Office officials did not achieve the performance capabilities for the EPF program.  Specifically, Program Office officials obligated $2 billion for the EPF program; however, the EPF vessel had deficiencies that prevented it from attaining its required performance capabilities, including two key performance parameters—Transport Capability and Net Ready.   This occurred because Program Office officials did not demonstrate that they corrected deficiencies identified during low-rate initial production (initial production).  Initial production is when a minimum quantity is produced for testing. 

As a result, Navy officials accepted eight EPF vessels with deficiencies that could prevent the MSC from accomplishing missions.  The Navy may also have to spend additional money to achieve the required performance capabilities for EPF vessels that were already provided to the fleet and for future EPF vessels that are still in production. 

Recommendations:

We recommend that the Program Executive Officer, PEO Ships, with assistance from the Program Office, review whether action was taken to correct deficiencies on EPF vessels.  If action was taken, PEO Ships should require the Program Office to request COMOPTEVFOR to confirm the correction of deficiencies.  If action was not taken, PEO Ships should require the Program Office to implement a plan to correct the deficiencies prior to delivery of the EPF vessels, as appropriate.

Additionally, we recommend that the Commander, MSC, identify whether deficiencies on delivered EPF vessels were corrected.  If the deficiencies were not corrected, the Commander, MSC, should implement a plan to correct the deficiencies, as appropriate.

Management Comments and Our Response:

The Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Research, Development and Acquisition) (ASN [RD&A]), responding for the Program Executive Officer, PEO Ships, and the Commander, MSC, addressed the specifics of the recommendations.

The ASN (RD&A) stated that the Navy partially agreed with our recommendations.  The Commander, Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) agreed to work with the resource manager and the MSC for concurrence on Transport Capability and unrefueled range limitations deficiencies.  The Commander, NAVSEA also agreed to conduct further assessments on the rigid hull inflatable boat launch and recovery and the aft mission deck layout.  This recommendation is resolved but will remain open.  We will close this recommendation when the Program Office demonstrates that the resource sponsor and the MSC accepted the Transport Capability and unrefueled range limitations, and when the Program Office conducts further assessments to resolve the rigid hull inflatable boat launch and recovery and the aft mission deck layout. 

The ASN (RD&A) stated that the Navy agreed with our recommendation.  The Commander, MSC, stated that the MSC will continue to work with PEO Ships and the Program Office to review and implement appropriate corrections in the delivered fleet.  This recommendation is resolved but will remain open.  We will close this recommendation when the MSC provides documentation to show reviews were conducted and appropriate corrections were implemented in the delivered fleet. 

This report is a result of Project No. D2017-D000AT-0127.000.