Congress will likely hold hearings on the state of the Littoral Combat Ship program, Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.) , the chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection forces, told reporters on Tuesday.
“We are going to do some intensive oversight of this program, which will include hearings,” Forbes said in a report from Reuters.
The hearings are prompted by an anticipated Government Accountability Office report that will likely advise Congress to slow down acquisition of the program so the ships and the planned mission packages.
“I have felt that LCS had bumps in the road but it was moving. The only thing that’s really raising this flag is what this GAO report may or may not say,” Forbes said.
Excerpts of a draft GAO LCS report have appeared in several press outlets. The draft recommends Congress slow down acquisition of the ships and the mission packages pending further study.
“The apparent disconnect between the LCS acquisition strategy and the needs of the end user suggests that a pause is needed,” a draft of the GAO report was quoted in a Friday Bloomberg story. “Congress is in a position to slow funding… pending the results of the technical studies that are already underway.”
The U.S. Navy currently plans to acquire 52 LCS hulls to round out the low-end of the Navy’s surface combatant roster. The two hulls being built — Lockheed Martin’s Freedom-class and Austal USA’s Independence-class — are part of a dual acquisition strategy formulated in 2010. After a fierce competition between Austal’s aluminum trimaran and Lockheed’s steel mono-hull design, the Navy elected to buy both versions in a deal for 20 ships with an estimated value of $8.9 billion.
In addition to four ships the Navy funded outside of the 2010 deal, the Navy’s current plan is to buy 24 ships with both hulls.
In November, Vice Adm. Tom Copeman, commander of U.S. Surface Forces, sent a classified memo to Navy leadership that advised narrowing down to a single LCS design modified to carry more weapons than the current version or an entirely new class of ship.