Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) wants to add more-stringent cost controls on Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) program to Pentagon policy legislation later this year.
The Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) approved the fiscal year 2014 defense authorization bill last Thursday. It calls for nearly the same funding President Barack Obama’s administration requested–a $526.6 billion base defense budget and $80.7 billion in war funding–along with what it dubs “aggressive oversight” of programs including the LCS and replacement presidential helicopter.
McCain said Tuesday, though, that he is not satisfied that the SASC’s bill does enough to control costs with the LCS program, for which a Lockheed Martin[LMT]-Marinette Marine team and Austal USA are building different ships.
“We want to see more oversight and more accountability,” he told reporters at the Capitol. “We may do more on the floor on that,” referring to Senate floor debate on the bill, which will come later this year.
The SASC’s bill, according to a committee summary, calls required the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to review the LCS program to asses five factors: seaframe developmental test activities; mission module development and testing; lessons the Navy may be learning from the deployment of LCS-1 to Singapore; Navy studies on LCS requirements and technical capabilities, and any recommendations for changes from those studies; and the role of the LCS Council in overseeing LCS acquisition and fleet introduction. The SASC’s actual bill and accompanying report have not yet been filed in the Senate and made available to the public.
During the SASC’s closed bill markup session, McCain argued unsuccessfully to add “stricter” LCS cost controls, according to an aide.
Some lawmakers have expressed concern about the littoral-ship program following the recent release of a draft report by GAO, which recommends lawmakers delay procurement of additional ships until operational and testing development is complete. The SASC’s defense authorization bill–like the accompanying one the House passed last week—supports the Navy’s request to buy four LCSs in FY ’14.
It remains to be seen when the full Senate debates the legislation the SASC unveiled last week. SASC Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) told reporters Tuesday he hopes it will hit the floor in July, “but that may be excessively optimistic.”
Though the SASC has a history with seeking more oversight of Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, its FY ’14 bill does not target the program for additional oversight.
“I think there’s been an improvement in terms of cost control,” Levin said Tuesday.
McCain said he has no current plans to seek F-35 changes to the defense bill during Senate floor debate.
“But we’ll see what happens before we get to the floor,” he said.
The Senate Appropriations Defense subcommittee will hold a hearing on the F-35 Wednesday with senior Pentagon leaders. It comes as lawmakers appear less concerned than in the past with the progress of the multi-service, multi-nation fighter jet program currently pegged to cost $391 billion (Defense Daily, June 18).
Pentagon acquisition chief Frank Kendall told reporters last Thursday that the F-35 program is on track to ramp up production as planned in in two years “unless there is a significant surprise” (Defense Daily, June 14). Kendall, though, acknowledged there still is “plenty of risk,” and the program still needs significant testing and development in aerodynamics, software, and weaponry.