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Analysis

Littoral Combat Ship: Looking for Congressional Oversight

LCS

Among the final acts of the last Congress was approving a continuing resolution that authorized the Navy to buy 20 sea frames of both the Lockheed Martin and Austal USA versions of the Littoral Combat Ships (LCS).

In a letter to the Senate Armed Services Committee last month, POGO had urged Congress to take more time before approving the Navy's proposal to assess whether the plan would be fiscally irresponsible or increase risks that already exist in the program. The Committee's ranking member, Senator John McCain (R-AZ), entered POGO's letter into the record and urged his colleagues to wait until next year to approve the plan, pointing out that in addition to the numerous substantial questions and program risks presented by the Congressional Research Service (CRS), the Government Accountability Office (GAO), and the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), it was the third time that the Navy had come to Congress "late in the game" to make major changes to the program.

Michael Fabey at Aviation Week points out that one of the potential cost drivers for the program (initially identified by CRS) is a possible common combat system for the entire fleet. "If future Navy leaders decided that a common combat system was desirable, developing, purchasing, and installing new combat systems in 12 LCSs would cost more than the savings that the Navy is asserting that the dual award offers over the next 5 years," said CRS researcher Ronald O'Rourke.

But I'm sure that the Navy would give Congress more than sufficient time to consider such a costly proposal (even if Congress won't demand it).

A transcript of the Senate Armed Services Committee's hearing on the LCS dual buy can be found here.