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U.S. panel raises new LCS, Navy fleet size concerns

Jun. 5, 2013 - 02:15PM   |  
House Republicans Holds News Conference On Nat'l S
Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Va., House Armed Services Committee seapower and projection forces subcommittee chairman, offered an amendment to the 2014 defense authorization bill expressing 'significant concerns' about the LCS program. (Alex Wong / Getty Images)
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WASHINGTON — The House Armed Services Committee is raising new concerns about the Littoral Combat Ship program and is urging the Navy to spend more annually on new ships.

The panel on Wednesday approved a portion of its 2014 defense authorization bill that covers naval shipbuilding, including an amendment expressing “significant concerns” about the LCS program.

“The committee has significant concerns regarding the levels of concurrency associated with the mission modules and the expected delivery of the Littoral Combat Ship seaframes,” according to an amendment agreed to on Wednesday.

“This dichotomy in capability development appears to ensure future success of this program,” states the amendment, offered by Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Va., HASC seapower and projection forces subcommittee chairman.

The amendment, if included in the final version of the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act, would require the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to study certain aspects of the LCS program.

That study would have to examine the program’s development plan, its weight-management plan, “progress made in implementing commonality across both variants,” and the program’s mission module development and testing efforts.

The amendment also would require the GAO to examine all lessons from an ongoing LCS deployment to Singapore. The study also would have to examine any recommended changes by the service “to the design and/or capabilities of either current or future LCS.”

The committee also expressed concern Wednesday about the size of the Navy, citing future shortages that could harm national security.

An example: The Marine Corps has a requirement for 38 amphibious assault ships but has only 30, with an average of 22 available for surge deployment.

This is not a one-year problem but the result of 20 years of inadequate investment in shipbuilding that has increased ship costs because of low-production volume and has left a “fragile” industrial base for shipbuilding and suppliers of material and equipment, the committee said in statement included as part of an amendment that passed by voice vote.

The amendment, sponsored by Rep. Steve Palazzo, R-Miss., does not provide more money for more ships. Instead, it calls on the Defense Department and Navy to “prioritize” funding increased shipbuilding rates.

Future budgets “must realistically anticipate and reflect the true investment necessary to meet stated force structure goals,” the amendment says.

Both amendments passed by voice vote and with no debate.

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