Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., recently rebuffed by the U.S. Navy in asking the service to review its Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) program, has turned to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to further examine the shipbuilding effort.
In a July 27 letter to the GAO, Hunter, joined by Rep. Rob Wittman, R-Va., cited his concerns about the program's historic cost overruns and schedule delays, and more recent corrosion and structural issues with the ships.
Hunter and Wittman asked the GAO to "review and as necessary update the August 2010 [GAO] report on the LCS program." Specifically, the lawmakers want GAO to examine:
å what the Navy is doing to overcome technical design flaws in the first two ships;
å what the Navy is doing to make sure follow-on ships are delivered with cost and time estimates;
å what actions the Navy has taken to make certain that mission packages have the capabilities they were intended to have; and
å provide performance and operational maintenance date on the propulsion systems for both LCS variants.
Hunter, in a July 1 letter to Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, had asked the service "to immediately conduct a formal review of the entire LCS program, provide an assessment of the technical design flaws of the current fleet and determine the best way forward to include the possibility of rebidding this contract so that the program can be put back on a fiscally responsible path to procurement."
Mabus, in a July 7 reply, said the Navy had "faced and overcome the program's past cost and schedule challenges," and addressed many of the issues presented in the GAO's 2010 report.
Noting that both ships have yet to complete all test and trial programs, Mabus wrote that the service now "is confident that we are on a path of success" with LCS.
In addition to Hunter, a group of seven senators, led by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., have questioned the Pentagon's handling of the LCS program. In a July 12 letter to Pentagon acquisition chief Ash Carter, the group questioned the Pentagon's certification procedures allowing the program to go forward, and asked for more information on corrosion problems affecting the ships.
Joe Kasper, a spokesman for Hunter, explained that the San Diego-area congressman's intent "is not to terminate the program."
Rather, Kasper said, "it's about efficiency of production, it's about efficiency of dollars. And if there's an opportunity to improve production and reduce costs in the process, then that's important and something worth considering."