Department of Defense: Navy fast transport ships have cybersecurity flaws and other issues

WASHINGTON, D.C. - An entire class of ships has "deficiencies" that could prevent them from fulfilling missions according to a new report from the Department of Defense Inspector General.

The report, Expeditionary Fast Transport Capabilities, was released by the DOD Inspector General last week.

It focuses on the Expeditionary Fast Transport (EPF) vessel, which was formerly known as the Joint High Speed Vessel.

The aluminum catamarans are designed to transport "personnel, supplies, and equipment in support of a wide range of military and civilian contingencies, evacuations, and disaster relief."

Since 2008, the Navy has bought 12 of the vessels from Austal USA, eight of which were delivered in August 2017. The Navy then transferred them to the Military Sealift Command, who is responsible for the operation of the ships.

Four more of the ships are expected to be delivered during Fiscal Year 2019.

Among the eight already in service is the Virginia Beach-based USNS Spearhead, which is currently on deployment in support of Continuing Promise 2018.

According to the report, the Navy accepted the eight vessels "with deficiencies that could prevent that 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."

The ships were designed to be able to move units at high speeds, through shallow waters and ports, along with cargo movement, and the ability to support the on and offload of large vehicles.

Among the deficiencies outlined in the report were problems with the transport capability.

The ships were designed to transport 1.2 million pounds of cargo for 1,200 nautical miles at an average speed of 35 knots. In reality, testing determined that it was only able to carry that much cargo for 769 miles at an average speed of 31 knots.

Not everything outlined in the report as a deficiency was considered major, but it was found that the " EPF vessel could only accomplish portions of its mission."

That included only being able to do vehicle transfers when waves were minimal, such as in a protected harbor, which was found to be "not operationally realistic" and counter to the mission of at-sea transfers.

Additionally, "cybersecurity vulnerabilities could potentially lead to hackers disabling or taking control of systems, preventing the EPF vessel
from accomplishing its missions."

Among the recommendations from the Inspector General is to determine if the deficiencies were corrected and if not to implement a plan to correct them.

In its response included in the report, the Navy indicated it was worked to "review and implement appropriate corrections in the delivered fleet."

You can read the entire report from the Department of Defense Inspector General here.