White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney doesn’t seem to like the littoral combat ship program very much.
The full Senate is getting ready to take up the 2019 Defense Appropriations bill but the White House has made clear it does not approve of a provision that made it out of committee that funds two littoral combat ships in 2019, one more than the Navy asked for in its budget.
In a statement from the Office of Management and Budget, the White House “strongly” objected to the second ship and said the work already line up is sufficient to keep the yards running while the Navy transitions to the FFG(X).
“The Administration strongly objects to the provision of an additional $475 million above the FY 2019 Budget request for the procurement of a second LCS. The additional ship is not needed.
“One LCS in FY 2019, when combined with the three funded in FY 2018, would keep both shipyards supplied with enough work to remain viable for the Frigate competition.”
The statement makes clear the White House wants the Navy to get to FFG(X) as soon as possible.
“It is imperative that, based on lessons learned from the LCS program, a more capable and survivable ship is developed to meet the Navy’s needs, consistent with [National Defense Strategy] priorities.”
Mick Mulvaney has never been a big fan of LCS. Asked about the program in 2017, Mulvaney indicated to conservative talk show host Hugh Hewitt that he was disinclined to fund lots of extra littoral combat ships.
"There's a discussion right now on whether or not we add some additional littoral combat ships. … And there's a really healthy and positive debate on that,” Mulvaney said. “Here's one of the issues: the Navy doesn't want them,” he said, referring to the Navy’s drive to get away from LCS and to a more lethal frigate.
Last year, Defense News reported that White House aides had to personally lobby Mulvaney to add a second LCS to the budget after only putting one in the 2018 budget request. If the Navy only got one LCS in 2018, they argued, it risked jobs at both LCS shipyards, both in states trump carried in the 2016 election.
The shipbuilders have argued that maintaining a steady flow of new ships to the yards will be vital to maintaining their viability if either Fincantieri’s Marinette shipyard in Wisconsin or Austal USA’s Mobile, Alabama shipyard is selected for the FFG(X).
David B. Larter was the naval warfare reporter for Defense News.