The Senate Armed Services Committee’s markup of its FY ’19 defense authorization bill does not allow additional Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) or authorize CVN-81 ahead of reports on a two-carrier buy like its House-passed counterpart.

The House’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) authorized spending $1.6 billion to procure three LCSs, an increase of $950 million over the administration’s request of $646 million for just one to finish the program as planned (Defense Daily, April 25).

An MH-60 Romeo flying near the USS Freedom (LCS-1). Photo: U.S. Navy
An MH-60 Romeo flying near the USS Freedom (LCS-1). Photo: U.S. Navy

The Navy plans to transition to the guided-missile future frigate, FFG(X), once the LCS procurement is completed. The Navy’s current force structure assessment (FSA) plans for 32 LCSs before adding 20 frigates for a total of 52 small surface combatants.

If the full Senate does not increase the LCS number, both sides will have to work out the difference in conference committee.

The Senate bill also would limit funding for the LCS until the under Secretary of Defense for acquisition and sustainment submits a certification to Congress related to the transition to the new FFG(X) frigate, indicating they want more information before they support more vessels beyond the administration’s FY ’19 request.

The Senate’s bill also does not clearly authorize the fourth Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carrier, CVN-81, like the House bill does. The House Armed Services Committee provision authorizes CVN-81 as early procurement for a two-carrier buy. The House approved this provision before the Navy completes its analysis of how much money this structure could save.

CVN-81 is expected to be the second carrier in a possible two-carrier buy the Navy is examining with shipbuilder Huntington Ingalls Industries [HII]. Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition (ASN-RDA) James Geurts told a House panel last month that he expects to have an analysis of the two-carrier buy plan finished by May or early June (Defense Daily, April 13).

Jennifer Boykin, president of Huntington Ingalls Industries’ [HII] Newport News Shipbuilding (NNS) division, told reporters during the Navy League’s Sea Air Space Expo last month that a two-carrier purchase could save up to $1.6 billion in commercially furnished equipment (CFE) and could move Ford-class centers closer to a three-and-a-half to four year apart versus the current five-year centers.

Geurts told reporters last month that the government furnished equipment (GFE) part of the carrier is largely the nuclear reactors and covers about one-third of the ship’s cost. He said the Navy is looking at reducing the GFE cost in a two-carrier buy as well (Defense Daily, April 13).