By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Wednesday, April 20, US Representative Bradley Byrne (R-Montrose) reported that the U.S. House Armed Services Committee Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee has approved a Byrne sponsored amendment that would block the Pentagon from eliminating the contract of one Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) supplier.
There are currently, two different versions of the LCS. On is built by Austal USA in Mobile and the other is built by Marinette Marine in Wisconsin.
New Obama Secretary of Defense Ash Carter has proposed building just 40 LCSs rather than the 52 that were planned by the navy and having those remaining ships provided by just one supplier. There is a high probability that the Pentagon would opt for Lockheed Martins more conventional single hull Wisconsin built Freedom Class rather than Austal’s trimaran hulled Freedom class made in Mobile.
President Obama’s proposed 2017 budget calls for the proposed “downselect” to a single LCS supplier.
Byrne’s amendment would prevent any funds from being used to “select only a single contractor for the construction of the Littoral Combat Ship or any successor frigate class ship program” until the Secretary of the Navy certifies a number of requirements to Congress.
Rep. Byrne said, “Congress should not allow a Secretary of Defense with less than a year left in office to decide the fate of a critical Navy program like the LCS. My amendment will block the Pentagon from spending any money to move forward with a downselect to a single LCS supplier and will help eliminate unnecessary confusion and uncertainty in the industrial base. I appreciate Chairman Forbes and members of the Seapower Subcommittee for supporting my straightforward amendment.”
Byrne’s amendment was adopted on a voice vote.
Recently US Pacific Command (PACOM) Commander Admiral Harry Harris outlined his support for the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS). Admiral Harris called the LCS a “terrific platform to work with our allies and partners in the region.” He went on to say that he has always valued the LCS, dating back to his time as Pacific Fleet Commander for the Navy. “I believe there is a place for LCS in the joint force, now that I am the PACOM commander.”
Admiral Harris said, “A lot of our friends and partners in the region have small navies. They want to learn from us, or they want to learn from somebody, and I’d rather they learn from us than other potential partners. There navies are small and when a cruiser comes in there or even a DDG for that matter, it can overwhelm them. So, an LCS is the right platform to do that. It is also the right platform to train in areas of shallower depths.”
Today’s action comes after the Armed Services Committee yesterday released the legislative text for the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which included authorizing three new LCSs rather than the two Littoral Combat Ships that the Obama Administration has asked to purchase in Fiscal Year 2017. Massive cost overruns in the troubled F-35 strike fighter project is forcing the Pentagon to reexamine other procurements. Some members of Congress would prefer that money go to the F35 or a new class of frigates yet to be designed rather than the smaller littoral combat ships.
Congressman Bradley Byrne represents Alabama’s First Congressional District.