Republican Lawmakers Question CAPE on Amphibious Warship Buys

March 1, 2024 5:56 PM
Marine Corps vehicles assigned to the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) line up for an agricultural washdown outside the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship USS Arlington (LPD-24) during a scheduled port visit to Klaipeda, Lithuania, Sept. 15, 2022. US Navy Photo

Two Republican lawmakers are probing the Pentagon about the use of multi-year purchase strategies for large amphibious ships.

Citing the lack of San Antonio-class amphibious transport docks in last year’s Fiscal Year 2024 five-year budget proposal, Reps. Rob Wittman (R-Va.) and Trent Kelly (R-Miss.) are asking the Pentagon’s Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation office whether it’s on the same page with the Navy and Marine Corps about the savings multi-year buys could yield and whether the Navy should use the purchase strategy for its amphibious ship portfolio.

The letter, dated March 1, references the 31 amphibious ship requirement that both the Navy’s 2022 Battle Force Ship Assessment and Requirement Study called for and that Congress codified into law in the Fiscal Year 2023 defense policy bill. The 31-ship requirement is for amphibious transport docks and amphibious assault ships, but does not include the new Landing Ship Medium that the Navy is pursuing for the Marine Corps.

“We appreciated your engagement last summer on these topics, and you affirming your support for both the 31 L-class amphibious force structure and your support for an amphibious ship LHA/LPD multiyear procurement as authorized by section 129 of the James M. Inhofe National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2023,” the letter reads.

The letter to CAPE director Susanna Blume comes ahead of the expected March 11 Fiscal Year 2025 budget rollout.

Amphibious ship procurement has been a sticking point in the Navy’s last two budget submissions. In the Fiscal Year 2023 rollout, the Navy tried to end the LPD-17 Flight II line, a move that the Marine Corps opposed and Congress ultimately rejected.

During last year’s FY 2024 budget rollout, the Navy again halted the LPD line, citing a so-called “pause” on buying amphibious ships that was directed by the Office of the Secretary of Defense. Officials at the time said the pause would allow CAPE to assess the future of the LPD line and any potential cost savings within the platform.

Authorizers rejected the proposal to halt the line, with lawmakers approving $1 billion in incremental funding authority for LPD-33 in the FY 2024 National Defense Authorization Act. Congress has yet to pass an appropriations bill for FY 2024. Senate appropriators allotted $500 million in their draft of the FY 2024 spending bill, but House appropriators did not include a plus up.

Kelly chairs the House Armed Services Committee’s seapower and projection forces subcommittee, which Wittman previously chaired. Kelly’s state is also home to HII’s Ingalls Shipbuilding, which builds both the LPDs and the LHAs.

“As the cost assessment arm of the Office of the Secretary of Defense, CAPE should recognize the value of the cost savings generated by multiyear procurement of America class and San Antonio class amphibious ships,” the lawmakers write.

Navy and Marine Corps officials have called for the use of block buys or multi-year procurement strategies for amphibious ships to save money. Industry advocates for buying the LPDs every two years and the LHAs every four years. Lawmakers have largely supported using block buys and multi-year procurement deals.

“Using tools like multi-year buys to make sure the taxpayers get their dollars worth – we have bought these one at a time,” former Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger said last March ahead of the FY 2024 budget rollout.
“That’s not the way you do it. We do it. We do block buys for other platforms – and for all the right reasons – destroyers, submarines, aircraft carriers. All the right reasons. We need to do it also for amphibious ships. Why? You heard it. You all know it better. That’s the signal that tells you all we have 10, 15 years worth of work. This is not one at a time.”

Mallory Shelbourne

Mallory Shelbourne

Mallory Shelbourne is a reporter for USNI News. She previously covered the Navy for Inside Defense and reported on politics for The Hill.
Follow @MalShelbourne

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