NavWeek: The Song Remains the Same


There may be a new sheriff in LCS Town, but I wouldn’t expect much to change with the program.

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As many know, Vice Adm. Michelle Howard, the U.S. Navy deputy chief of naval operations for operations, plans and strategy, recently took over as chairman of the Littoral Combat Ship Council of Admirals as the former chairman, Vice Adm. Richard Hunt, got ready to retire.

Taking charge of a group of alpha-admirals tasked with overseeing the development of a historically troubled program is far from an easy mission. But Howard’s career is full of tackling tough jobs.

She’s the first African-American woman to rise to the three-star rank. When she took command of LSD-47 USS Rushmore in 1999, she was the first African-American woman to command a Navy ship.

Asked once about any mottos or favorite sayings, she echoed Winston Churchill: “The best ambassador is a warship.”

She was the admiral in charge of a U.S. Navy strike force charged with combating pirates in the Arabian Sea in 2009, aboard the USS Boxer command ship, when the call came to aid the U.S.-flagged cargo ship Maersk Alabama, which was being attacked by pirates.

That attack, and subsequent Seal-team rescue, became grist for the recent movie, “Captain Phillips.”

Now, Adm. Howard faces another kind of challenge – shepherding the LCS program through an extremely public development period in the wake of LCS-1 Freedom’s first, herky-jerky Western Pacific deployment. Unfortunately, she doesn’t have a time to catch her breath and catch up on the program’s status.

But it looks like she’s hit the ground in a dead sprint and she’s not only caught up, but is pacing ahead of the program. She is building on the work and schedules already established by the council thus far and laying a foundation for developing even more capability in the LCS operational concept.

Indeed, in a recent sit-down chat with Aviation Week, she had a simple message about LCS as the ships get eyed for future missions: “Good things come in little packages.”

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