The Office of the Secretary of Defense is backing a plan that would reduce the numbers of Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) from 52 to 24, ending the purchase of both variants of the ship in 2015, according to a Monday report in Defense News.
The move comes as the Pentagon conducts high-level budget drills ahead of the submission of the Fiscal Year 2015 defense budget to Congress, due out in February. Under White House direction, the military services are developing two versions of the budget to deal with the ongoing sequester cuts mandated by the 2011 Budget Control Act.
Budget planners are now drafting two different program objective memoranda (POM) and an alternative POM (ALT POM).
The cuts to LCS are contained in the ALT POM defense officials told USNI News on Tuesday.
In response to the cut to 24 ships, the Navy has asked the floor of ship purchases to be at least 32 that would extend production for one to two years, Defense News reported.
When reached for comment on Tuesday, Navy officials said: “It is inappropriate to discuss specific details. We continue to evaluate the future demand for forces and will maintain a balance between force structure requirements while managing fiscal and operational risk. We remain committed to a 52-ship LCS program -this number accurately and appropriately captures the requirement for capacity and capabilities.”
The two ship designs — Lockheed Martin’s Freedom-class and Austal USA’s Independence-class — have been controversial since the program’s inception.
In 2010, the Navy announced an $8.9 billion buy of 20 of the ships as follow-on to two of each variant purchased by the Navy to test the designs.
In late 2012, current commander of U.S. Surface Forces — Vice Adm. Tom Copeman — drafted a memo to Chief of Naval Operations Jonathan Greenert that called for necking down to one variant of LCS or building a new ship and stopping the current dual hull buy at the 24 planned ships.
The Navy had planned to execute a second buy of 24 ships as part of the Fiscal Year 2016 budget.
Internal deliberations as to the future of LCS will likely conclude soon, reported Defense News:
“Under OSD deadlines, budget proposals are to be presented to the deputy’s Management Action Group in late September, followed by briefings to Frank Kendall, the Defense Department’s top acquisition official, in late September or early October.”