Friday, April 25, 2008


THE PRICE OF DOG TAGS: Today’s NY Times provides more information on how poorly constructed the Hawai`i Superferry was and how essentially it was a failed demonstration project to get congress back on track for a plan to use commercial-high-speed ferry designs for warships.

The article, “Lesson on How Not to Build a Navy Ship” reviews the current competition between Lockheed and General Dynamics - which is building their version of the warships at HSf builders Austal- to build 55 of these boats based on the HSf designs.

The article states “the troubled birth of the coastal ships was rooted in the Navy’s misbegotten faith in a feat of maritime alchemy: building a hardened warship by adapting the design of a high-speed commercial ferry. As Representative Gene Taylor, the Mississippi Democrat who leads the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower and Expeditionary Forces, put it, “Thinking these ships could be built to commercial specs was a dumb move.

“Behind the numbers in the Accountability Office study, experts say, is a dynamic of mutually re-enforcing deficiencies: ever-changing Pentagon design requirements; unrealistic cost estimates and production schedules abetted by companies eager to win contracts, and a fondness for commercial technologies that often, as with the ferry concept, prove unsuitable for specialized military projects. “...

An examination of the littoral combat ships by The New York Times, including interviews with many of the principal Navy and industry officials involved, found that the project was hobbled from the outset by the Navy’s zeal to build the ships as fast and inexpensively as possible and the contractors’ desire — driven by competitive pressures — to stay on schedule, even as the ferry designs proved impractical and construction problems multiplied

It also speaks in a way to the “rush-jobs” at Austal that fired welder Wayne Jenkins referred to and further ties the HSf to the Naval boats, in what many think was a demonstration project for congress since one of the ways the HSf was originally “sold” to investors and the public was its ability to transport military personal and the new Stryker Brigade now set for deployment in Hawai`i

In their haste to get the ships into the water, the Navy and contractors redesigned and built them at the same time — akin to building an office tower while reworking the blueprints. To meet its deadline, Lockheed abandoned the normal sequence of shipbuilding steps: instead of largely finishing sections and then assembling the ship, much of the work was left to be done after the ship was welded together. That slowed construction and vastly drove up costs.

“It’s not good to be building as you’re designing,” said Vice Adm. Paul E. Sullivan, commander of the Navy branch that supervises shipbuilding...

“The littoral combat ship is an imaginative answer to emerging military requirements, but it has the most fouled-up acquisition strategy I have ever seen in a major military program,” said Loren Thompson, a military analyst at the Lexington Institute, a policy research center.

The extensive research in the article reveals how Congress had pulled the plug on the project until after the Superferry was built and running- at the behest and investment of ex Chief of the Navy John Lehman- the first commercial high speed ferry to operate in the open waters of the ocean.

Little did they know the brand new boat would leak and break it’s rudder- or that word of the slip-shod design and workmanship would be covered up for weeks until the day after Congress okayed spending for the warships

The rest of the article describes how Congress after much political maneuvering re-authorized the program and thus began the apparently insurmountable problems in using a commercial design for warships, describing much of Lockheed’s stumbling and bumbling on their competing version.

The article also talks about the foolishness of trying to use the commercial design saying

“(A)s Lockheed and the Navy were completing contract negotiations in 2004, the rules changed drastically. Commercial ferry standards, the Navy determined, would not do.
The underlying principle behind the decision, Admiral Sullivan said, was that the new ships had to be able to “hang tough in a storm and take some battle damage and still survive long enough” for the crew to be rescued.

A military expert said the Navy had badly miscalculated.

“They were eager to take advantage of commercial practices and the lower cost of buying off the shelf, but they did a lousy job of understanding the war-fighting requirements,” said the military expert, who asked not be named because he was involved with the program. “It was like, ‘You mean you want to put wheels on that car?’ ”
Adm. Gary Roughead, the current chief of naval operations, said: “We had thought that the commercial variant would not be that far away from what we needed. I’ll tell you, that was underestimated.””

The article concludes with a quote from Navy Secretary Winters.

“If we do not figure out how to establish credibility in our shipbuilding programs and plans, and restore confidence in our ability to deliver on our commitments, we cannot expect Congress or the nation to provide us with the resources we so urgently need"

According to the article Austal is scheduled to put the General Dynamics version of the littoral combat ship in the water tomorrow


Anonymous said...

great job on this andy. finially it is coming out to the public what kauai has been saying for three years!

thanx andy


Anonymous said...

another Parx bait and switch. Weak effort and mostly cribbed from Conrow's rubbish on the subject.

Have you any evidence the Superferry was built as it was being re-designed like these USN cluster---ks? Of course not. The SF is not military spec.

You cannot conclude the superferry was badly built just because a successor vessel with vastly different specs was a contracting nightmare. Well unless you are peddling propaganda and trying to call it opinion.

Austal has been building ferries of this sort for a decade+. They also have a defense division that was awarded a military version in 2004, long before this vessel could demonstrate anything. We are currently being run by a military junta anyway. Why our junta need to build a "demonstration project" if our Military Industrial Complex wanted these sorts of vessels and had already ordered one?

I'm no ferry support. There's no way I'd ever set foot on it. But this shoddy, dishonest "reporting" is just muddying the water in terms of presenting real reasons against it.

Anonymous said...

I know, right? Where's Maui Brad to fawn over this tendentious crap?

Mauibrad said...

"Anonymous," I think Andy does a fairly good job in reviewing the NY Times article of today.

You asked about a solid reasons to be against the HSF? How about it is overpowered with 4+ jet engines and burns too much fuel to be cost effective commercially for the distances involved here. Also, the catamaran as opposed to what should have been a trimaran design does not handle the conditions here in Hawaii well.

Simply said, Lehman and his MBA's and ex-military officers picked the wrong design for this purpose...or did they?


Aloha, Brad

Mauibrad said...

Here is that link again:

Friday, January 19, 2007
"Superferry officials confident they can compete with airlines"
Pacific Business News (Honolulu) - by Howard Dicus

"...Whether Hawaii Superferry will be profitable is something that concerns Alan Lerchbacker, the former CEO of Austal USA, which built the ferry.

"I just worry about getting enough business to cover costs because of the sheer size of it," said Lerchbacker, who came to Hawaii to sell the ferry but works in another industry now.

Lerchbacker said he suggested a 72-meter vessel only to see the company order the 100-meter model.

"For a smooth ride on the ocean, that ferry will have to go over 35 knots, and it costs a lot of money on fuel to go that fast," he said. "They may need 400 to 500 passengers to break even."

[That is now 600+ with the higher fuel costs.]

...Lerchbacker frets about this, and clearly thinks Hawaii Superferry should have gotten a smaller boat, but he doesn't want the venture to fail..."

Aloha, Brad

Anonymous said...

Oops, is that a red under the bed? The Superferry is a very different design to the Austal LCS. Ones got two hulls the others got three. The rest of the world has been using fast ferry technology for years, very effectively. The USA has been kept in the Dark Ages by the Jones Act.

What made the USA great was its ability to open its doors to new ideas from all over the world. That isn’t happening any more! Batten down the hatches and keep the marauding hordes out. I’ll give you a tip: The world is leaving the USA behind.

The LCS is a good idea, and yes it’s a new idea, and yes it wasn’t handled very well. But don’t throw the baby out with the dishwater. Just get it right next time.

Anonymous said...

There's a disconnect, I feel, when we discuss this issue of the military ties to the Superferry.

Some will say that there is nothing mysterious about a civilian transport being built to support possible military use - after all, look at the highway system, the airlines, etc.

Others will argue that any intimation that the military has ties to the superferry is irresponsible conspiracy theorism.

While no one is more averse than I to conspiracy theorism, I do believe that there is more to the relationship than we are being told, and that it is important for the public to be informed. For example - is the Superferry going to be used to transport Stryker vehicles? What effect will that have on us?

Another disconnect is a paradigmal one: is the US military good, or not? I think that's the issue that underlies alot of this debate.

Those that believe that the US military is a benign institution whose sole aim to protect us and safeguard freedom and democracy tend to accept and/or dismiss the idea that the HSF has ties to military use.

Those of us who have a different reading on history and current events, and who see the US military as the enforcer of global imperialism - not serving to protect we the people but instead the interests of corporations and the elite who profit from them (through repressive action at home and abroad), are likely to be skeptical indeed about the military's connection with the Superferry.

All told, I think we need alot more information, and less blind speculation.

Those who are busy rooting out the information, Andy, Joan and Brad among them, deserve our respect for doing that difficult work.

I also appreciate the questions skeptics are asking about the research these folks are doing - it's always important for us to be critical. However, I would appreciate it more if they were free from the frequently smarmy ad hominem asides normally attached to them.

And maybe it would be helpful for us all to keep in mind that our personal views on the military are driving this discussion - and that this fact is an absolutley valid and important aspect of the debate.


Anonymous said...

"You cannot conclude the superferry was badly built just because a successor vessel with vastly different specs was a contracting nightmare. Well unless you are peddling propaganda and trying to call it opinion." from anon

i guess you can conclude from the cracks in the rudder that the Alakai was badly built. maybe union welders instead of pipefitters could have improved on the cracked welds, maybe it's a design issue. we'll find out. it could be both. stay tuned. mahalo andy for throwing us the ball. Ruff!

Anonymous said...

This article discusses the Lockheed LCS ship, not the General Dynamics / Austal ship.

Ya got the wrong boat!

Mauibrad said...

Anonymous said, "This article discusses the Lockheed LCS ship, not the General Dynamics / Austal ship."

You need to read the whole New York Times article, I know it is a little longer than the usual 'local' newspaper articles. It mentions Austal-USA and its building of the LCS 'Independence,' and the whole article is talking about the failing effort to adapt commercial high speed vessel technology for use by the military (that would be LCS and JHSV).

The following quote from the NYT is in direct reference to the question of the quality of construction standards at these shipyards, from the article, "Mr. Winter, the Navy Secretary, 'If we do not figure out how to establish credibility in our shipbuilding programs and plans, and restore confidence in our ability to deliver on our commitments, we cannot expect Congress or the nation to provide us with the resources we so urgently need.'"

That's right. It starts with how you train and qualify people like the welders and whether you treat them with proper pay and non-discriminatory treatment? If you don't treat people right, you won't get a high quality product. It is as simple as that.

Aloha, Brad

Anonymous said...

Next time you call Oahu radio Brad, go ahead and admit who you are. Your fears will be realized. They will lose all respect; but, they will advise you to get a life in a nice way.

Anonymous said...

Miss Katy,
A disconnect huh?
Your knee jerks only to the left.
You are remarkably 100% consistent.
Why do you bother pretending for us that you go through some critical thinking process before deciding on an issue?

Anonymous said...

These exchanges are so typical of the conspiracy monger bs that passes for real investigation.

How can anyone watch business after business fail because management is stupid and try to argue that because HSF bought too big a vessel there must be some deep dark secrets.

My Occam's razor says a management team headed by military types is 5X more likely to be utterly incompetent and soon to demonstrate survival of the fittest in the real world than the ordinary dingdongs that run business' in the ground.

I again ask: With our current government writing whatever checks the military wants including those for 2 of these sorts of vessels to military specs why in hell did they also need to sneak a "demontration project" in here?

Or are you guys just trying to incite a revolution? Or in need of a change of meds? (apols for those, but accusations dressed up as questions are a classic backdoor method of accusation).

for Katy. You are welcome to believe there is a lot you are not being told. You are also welcome to believe in the tooth fairy. You have no proof of the existence of either. Offering conjecture as investigation is pretty pathetic.

I agree our military has little to no credibility. They will lie about most anything if it suits their purposes, but Brad, Conrow and the rest have not offered one fact that can't be explained by simple incompetence.

Presenting this crap only makes the antis look like goofs undermining the good reasons to be against it.

Anonymous said...

Again, we would be better served by those with pro-ferry arguments if they did not rely on weird and sleazy little personal attacks.

It's difficult to give consideration to critical points of view when they appear to rest on accusations of mental illness and so on.

Principled dialogue and debate does not always result in each participant swinging 180 degrees from one's original opinion. Often people continue to hold on to their positions, only with more comprehensive information and perhaps an understanding of that which motivates the opposition. And, indeed, often minds are changed or at least opened.

However, that process shuts down when one side becomes hysterical to the point of leveling school-yard insults at the other, which is what appears to have happened here.

The last comment (11:52)actually raises some points worth considering about the intentions and competence of the military. Yet, woefully, the entire line of questioning falls apart with the mention of "meds," and goes downhill from there.

I don't pretend to be an investigator, but I still hold that Conrow, Parx and Parsons are doing us a service by attempting to "lift the veil." Have any of us done nearly as much work sifting through documents and transcripts, following leads or anything else?

Perhaps detractors could try to do some of this work and present us with some information instead of bluster. I'm all ears.


Anonymous said...

See the letter in today's GI. I think what irks most of us is that the bad behavior on the part of a handful keeps the rest of us from rightfully using the service. If you opponants kept to investigating and "exposing" it would be fine. But you guys physically interfere with our right to ride the boat. So I think we can be forgiven if we think you all are assholes.

Anonymous said...

Okay, that's fine.

But I think we prefer to ACT on our analyses, instead of simply talking and complaining.

But I'm really sorry for that lady not being able to bring home her load of consumer junk - what a tragedy!


Anonymous said...

What if someone acts on their analysis and buss you in the nose if you try to stop us from using the ferry again. I guess that would be pono too huh? You gotta lot a effin nerve "actin on your analysis" all in my face.

Anonymous said...

Its just like Miss Rose to ignore the lady's point about showing her art on Oahu in order to make a cheap smarmy shot by changing "furniture and food" to "consumer junk." I moved here from Berkeley, CA. I've spent more time as a Leftist then the
40ish Miss Rose has been alive. I've been reading her letters and posts for a year or two now and I can tell you, its been a long time since the Left has suffered such a know it all little prig as this.
Please stop. I refuse to defend you again.

Anonymous said...

I don't much like all the traffic that makes it hard to get out on to the highway. But if I dynamited the Kalihiwai bridge I'd expect to get jail time.

So actions that may be justifiable to some aren't to others.

As for Katy, when you live up to your standards of debate, perhaps you'll have more credibility. How can you offer rank speculation and then argue against such a thing 2 para's later? bit humorous. I guess some debaters are more equal than others.....

Andy Parx said...

Anonymous 4/27 3:40 p.m.-
We like and encourage comments, even anonymous comments. But we will not tolerate threats of physical violence- whether veiled or not- especially from anonymous persons directed toward those who have the courage to put their names to their posts.

Mauibrad said...

Anonymous said...
"Next time you call Oahu radio Brad, go ahead and admit who you are."

Oh, that was Oahu radio? I only heard that on Maui radio. I thought that was just the local radio. It was not a station I usually listen to. They were having some sort of technical difficulty, and I could not hear everything they were asking me.

Aloha, Brad