22 September 2008

LPD 17 San Antonio Procurement Mess

The San Antonio class amphibious ship (LPD 17), which brings Marines and their gear to amphibious assaults, was a procurement disaster. It was more over budget, and more behind schedule than usual, and continued to have problems after all of the problems were supposed to be fixed.

It is particularly notable because despite having a new design, that consolidates more functions into a single larger ship and updates some systems, it wasn't particularly technologically ambitious compared to other major military projects like the F-22, F-35B, Osprey, Future Combat System, DD(X) and the Littoral Combat Ship. In other contracts, over budget and behind schedule problems have been blamed on the fact that the projects were trying to do thing which were previous impossible. In contrast, the San Antonio has basically sought to used well established technologies in a package designed to use them as opposed to a retrofit.

There is nothing inherent to government contracting about this problem. There have been times in U.S. military procurement history, where projects have been completed quickly and swiftly. But, the administration seems to have lost its way, presumably through less competent or political savy personnel, in knowing how to manage these contracts.

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