In the wake of U.S. Navy, media and watchdog reports about the trials and tribulations of the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) program, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert has established a special board this week to shepherd the program.

The LCS Council comprises four Navy vice admirals who will oversee continued fleet testing and introduction of LCS sea frames, mission modules, and mission packages. Greenert has designated Vice Adm. Rick Hunt, director of the Navy staff, as the council’s chairman.

Other officers on the council include Vice Adm. Mark Skinner, principal military deputy to the assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development and acquisition; Vice Adm.

Tom Copeman, commander of Naval Surface Forces; and Vice Adm. Kevin McCoy, commander of Naval Sea Systems Command.

The focus of the LCS Council will first be to develop a class-wide plan of action to address the areas identified as needing improvement in recent assessments and reviews. Greenert called for the plan to be implemented by Jan. 31, 2013, in an Aug. 22 memo to Hunt.

While such a special board is not uncommon for specific exercises or missions, Navy officials say this is the first for such a large program, and could be used as a template for other major efforts like the Joint Strike Fighter.

USS Freedom (LCS-1) and USS Independence (LCS-2) represent significant departures from the normal shipbuilding path,” Greenert says in the memo.

Calling the ships “test and evaluation platforms” — a designation that some defense analysts argue is a departure from earlier Navy thinking about the program — Greenert says the ships were “provided to the fleet for experimentation to refine concept development, modularity, employment of off-board vehicles and conduct risk-mitigation for follow-on ships.”

However, Greenert says, “All Navy combat ships, even test and evaluation platforms, must be ready to meet assigned capability and missions starting the first day of active service. The LCS is no exception.”

Accordingly, Greenert says he initiated “several independent studies to assess LCS across several aspects of the ‘man, train, quip and maintain domain’ to support the rotational deployment of USS Freedom (and follow-on ships) to Singapore, beginning in 2013.”

The CNO also says, “Addressing challenges identified by these studies, on the timeline we require, necessitates the establishment of an empowered council to drive action across acquisition, requirements and fleet enterprises of the Navy.”

The Navy says its efforts are now focused on transitioning from testing initial “research and development” ships to operationally employing LCS and ensuring the Navy is prepared to man, train, and equip the class in the most efficient and effective manner.

LCS-1 is built by Lockheed Martin, and LCS-2 by a team led by General Dynamics and Austal USA. Aviation Week’s investigations into LCS-1, the USS Freedom, uncovered problems with the ship far worse than the Navy previously had acknowledged.

And a recent review of documents and emails about the Freedom revealed that some service officials actively suppressed discussion of negative LCS-1 test reports during a crucial period when the service was still considering a downselect between the two seaframes (Aerospace DAILY, May 15, Aug. 17).