Report to Congress on Amphibious Warship Programs

March 11, 2021 8:30 AM

The following is the March 2, 2020 Congressional Research Service report, Navy LPD-17 Flight II and LHA Amphibious Ship Programs: Background and Issues for Congress.

From the report

This report discusses two types of amphibious ships being procured for the Navy: LPD-17 Flight II class amphibious ships and LHA-type amphibious assault ships. Both types are built by Huntington Ingalls Industries/Ingalls Shipbuilding (HII/Ingalls) of Pascagoula, MS. The first LPD-17 Flight II class ship, LPD-30, was procured in FY2018. LHA-type amphibious assault ships are procured once every few years.

The Navy’s FY2021 budget submission presented the second LPD-17 Flight II class amphibious ship, LPD-31, as a ship requested for procurement in FY2021, and the next amphibious assault ship, LHA-9, as a ship projected for procurement in FY2023. Consistent with congressional action on the Navy’s FY2020 budget, this CRS report treats LPD-31 and LHA-9 as ships that Congress procured (i.e., authorized and provided procurement—not advance procurement—funding for) in FY2020. The Department of Defense’s (DOD’s) decision to present LPD-31 and LHA-9 in its FY2021 budget submission as ships requested for procurement in FY2021 and FY2023, respectively, even though Congress procured both ships in FY2020, posed an institutional issue for Congress regarding the preservation and use of Congress’s power of the purse under Article 1 of the Constitution, and for maintaining Congress as a coequal branch of government relative to the executive branch. Section 126 of the FY2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) (H.R. 6395/P.L. 116-283 of January 1, 2021) states:


In the event the procurement quantity for a system authorized by Congress in a National Defense Authorization Act for a fiscal year, and for which funds for such procurement quantity are appropriated by Congress in the Shipbuilding and Conversion, Navy account for such fiscal year, exceeds the procurement quantity specified in the budget of the President, as submitted to Congress under section 1105 of title 31, United States Code, for such fiscal year, such excess procurement quantity shall not be specified as a new procurement quantity in any budget of the President, as so submitted, for any fiscal year after such fiscal year.

Section 124 of P.L. 116-283 provides authority for the Navy to use a block buy contract for the procurement of three LPD-17 class ships and one LHA-type amphibious assault ship. Such a contract would be the first block buy contract to cover the procurement of ships from two separate ship classes.

A key issue for Congress concerns the Navy’s force-level goals for amphibious ships and the effect these goals could have on future procurement of LPD-17 Flight II and LHA-type ships. The Navy’s current force-level goal, released in December 2016, calls for achieving and maintaining a 355-ship fleet that includes 38 amphibious ships—12 LHA/LHD-type amphibious assault ships, 13 LPD-17 Flight I class ships, and 13 LPD-17 Flight II class ships (12+13+13). The Navy and DOD since 2019 have been working to develop a new force-level goal to replace the Navy’s current 355-ship force-level goal. On December 9, 2020, the outgoing Trump Administration released a document that presents an envisioned Navy force-level goal for achieving by 2045 a Navy with 61 to 67 amphibious ships, including 9 to 10 LHA/LHD-type ships and a combined total of 52 to 57 LPD-type ships and Light Amphibious Warships (LAWs). (LAWs are a planned new kind of amphibious ship that are covered in another CRS report.) The December 9, 2020, document also calls for a future Navy with 0 to 6 light aircraft carriers (CVLs). The design for such carriers, if any are procured, might be based on the LHA design. In establishing its force-level goals and shipbuilding plans for the Navy, the Biden Administration can choose to adopt, revise, or set aside the December 9, 2020, document.

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