Date of Award

Fall 2017

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Political Science & Geography


Graduate Program in International Studies

Committee Director

Regina Karp

Committee Member

Jesse Richman

Committee Member

Patrick Hester


Grand strategy is about how states allocate resources and employ these resources to achieve desired political conditions. In examining the match between desired ends and available ways and means, an often-overlooked subject is how the specific tools of grand strategy are forged. One of these tools is the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS), a Major Defense Acquisition Program (MDAP) that started in 2000. LCS remains a controversial and often unpopular program with many stakeholders to this day. This study examines how the means of grand strategy, in this case a new ship class, are acquired. It also looks at how these means are employed (ways) to achieve the desired outcomes (ends) and the feedback loop between means, ways, and ends. The initial portion of the study examines how the U.S. Department of Defense and Department of the Navy formally acquire systems or “systems of systems.” The second portion of the study examines the design, construction, and fielding of the LCS class or the attainment of Initial Operational Capability (IOC). The final portion analyzes the design, construction, and introduction of the LCS into the fleet in terms of the three models used by Graham Allison and Philip Zelikow in Essence of Decision; the Rational Actor Model (RAM), Organizational Behavior, and Governmental Politics – Models I, II, and III respectively. The hypothesis is that individual personalities may have more influence than any of these models account for and that instances of individual impact may offer more nuanced insights into these models of state behavior. This study reveals that the process of evolutionary acquisition and spiral development caused increased risk in the time-line for achieving Final Operational Capacity (FOC) of LCS. It also provides insight into the reaction and adaption of a large organization to changes in its environment. This study does not however reveal strong evidence to support the hypothesis of individual personalities significantly influencing decision making or action taking compared to organizations in Models I-III. The details of individual participation and internal deliberations are obscured by security and proprietary rules which privileges models I and II in the analysis.


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