Senate appropriators knocked the Navy’s Large Surface Combatant (LSC) schedule plan and the draft defense spending bill would cut funding due to a lack of clear understanding over the ship requirements and strategy.

The explanatory statement released along with the Senate Appropriations Committee’s defense appropriations bill on Nov. 10 heavily criticized the Navy’s funding and strategy for the LSC, planned to succeed the Arleigh Burke-class DDG-51 Flight III destroyers.

Artist rendering of the first Flight III DDG-51 Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, the future USS Jack H. Lucas (DDG-125). (Image: Huntington Ingalls Industries)

The Navy fiscal year 2021 budget request included $46.5 million for requirements development, prototyping and preliminary and contract design for the LSC. It also included $19 million in another program element for requirements and concept analysis of an LSC.

The panel’s statement report said it noted “that despite repeated delays to the LSC, the Navy has reduced the acquisition profile for DDG–51 Flight III destroyers in recent budget submissions and has not delineated a clear acquisition path for large surface combatants following the conclusion of the current DDG–51 Flight III destroyer multi-year procurement contract in fiscal year 2022.”

Without a clear understanding of the LSC force structure requirements and acquisition strategies, the committee argued it does not support the proposed increase in LSC funding, including $17 million in preliminary design efforts.

This comes after the Senate Armed Services Committee’s draft fiscal year 2021 defense authorization bill would decrease funding in the LSC work by $41 million to $29 million. That committee argued it lacked enough clarity of the LSC capability requirements to support starting preliminary design work of the LSC (Defense Daily, June 26).

Separately, the explanatory statement also criticized the Navy’s Arleigh Burke-class (DDG-51) Flight III acquisition strategy for requesting an insufficient number of destroyers before the LSC is ready.

“The Committee notes that the current multi-year procurement contract for the DDG–51 Flight III destroyer ends in fiscal year 2022, and that with submission of the fiscal year 2021 President’s budget request the Navy further delayed the detailed design and construction schedule of the planned follow-on program, the future Large Surface Combatant [LSC], until no sooner than fiscal year 2026.”

The panel said despite the LSC construction delay, the Navy is only planning to procure four Flight III destroyers from fiscal years 2023 to 2025.

This is “well below” the current 2.4 DDG–51 destroyers per year multi-year procurement acquisition and the Navy has reduced the procurement profile for the destroyers in the last two budget submissions, the committee said.

“The Committee finds this inconsistent with previously stated shipbuilding objectives and believes that the lack of a predictable and stable acquisition strategy for large surface combatants undercuts naval maritime superiority and injects risk into the industrial base,” it added.

Therefore, it directs the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition to provide the defense committees the Navy’s fully funded strategy for large surface combatants with the submission of the fiscal year 2022 president’s budget request.

The panel also recommends adding $130 million in advance procurement funding for another Flight III DDG-51 destroyer in fiscal year 2022.