The outgoing secretary of the Navy took the head of the Pentagon's testing and evaluation authority to task Wednesday, claiming his assessments of the littoral combat ship were unnecessarily negative and suggesting reports that have panned the vessel were designed to garner press attention.
Speaking to reporters at a press breakfast Wednesday morning, Ray Mabus took aim at recent reports from the office of J. Michael Gilmore, director of Operational Test and Evaluation for the Defense Department, that stated it was unclear when or if the LCS would live up to the promise of providing the Navy with effective warfighting capability.
"My reaction is that I've been there almost eight years," Mabus said. "And I'm pretty sure that Michael Gilmore has never found a weapon system that's effective, ever."
Army Maj. Roger Cabiness, a spokesman for DOT&E, disputed the comment.
"DOT&E evaluated the effectiveness of the LCS and its mission packages against the Navy's requirements using the results of testing conducted by the Navy. Those results demonstrated clearly that performance did not meet the Navy's requirements," he said in a statement provided to Military.com.
"Regarding DOT&E's evaluations more generally, during the past seven years, DOT&E has evaluated 90 percent of the systems on which it has reported as at least partially effective," he added. "This includes Navy systems, such as the Virginia-class attack submarine, which DOT&E evaluated as effective even though the submarine did not meet all of the Navy's requirements."
In making his case, Mabus cited a 2014 report Gilmore's office released on the P-8A Poseidon reconnaissance aircraft that found the aircraft was not effective at its job of hunting submarines. The Navy publicly disputed the report's findings and defended the aircraft.
"The fleet was raving about [the P-8]," Mabus said.
He suggested that it was safer for Gilmore and DOT&E to produce reports panning acquisition and development programs than to voice approval for them.
"If you're a tester and you say something works and in the future it doesn't, it's like a lawyer," Mabus said. "The answer, 'No, you can't do it,' is a safe thing to do."
And, he added, programs that work don't make interesting stories.
"You don't get in the press saying things like that," he said.
The littoral combat ship was recently the subject of two heated hearings held by the Senate Armed Services Committee and House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, in which lawmakers asked Navy officials why the littoral combat ships in service for the Navy had suffered a series of high-profile breakdowns over the last 12 months and were still, eight years after entering service, facing questions about their mission capabilities and combat effectiveness.
Mabus said he continued to have faith in the LCS and had found they were popular and in high demand within the fleet.
"I think the LCS is a great ship," he said.