GAO examines LCS program

The U.S. government’s Government Accountability Office (GAO) says the U.S. Navy should take a closer look at the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) program.  Some of those ships are built at Austal USA  in Mobile, which is the area’s largest manufacturer with 4,000 employees.

The Government Accountability Office is an independent, nonpartisan agency that works for Congress, investigating how the federal government spends your tax dollars.

FOX10 News obtained a copy of the GAO report released on July 8 on the Wisconsin-built U.S.S. Freedom after a 10 month long deployment.

The Freedom was the first of Lockheed Martin’s Independence Class of LCS, commissioned in 2008.  During the period studied by the GAO, mechanical problems prevented the ship from spending as much time at sea as planned, underscoring one of the Navy’s concerns about the cost of maintaining the class of ships over its expected lifecycle.  The GAO. believes the LCS may have, “ operational limitations, deficits in personnel and materiel readiness and higher costs”.

The Navy says the cost-per-ship for LCS is nearing or exceeding those of other surface ships, such as frigates.  In February, 2014, the Navy cut the number of LCS it planned to order from 52 to 32.

The office of one of the program’s proponents, Rep. Bradley Byrne emphasized that the GAO report looked at a class of ship not built in Mobile.  It said it’s looking forward to a different report from the Small Surface Combatant Task Force expected in late July about what’s next for the LCS, a kind of version 2.

Byrne later issued a statement that said, “As I have said all along, I believe the LCS represents the future small surface combatant for the US Navy and is well on its way to becoming an integral part of the fleet. I know that the Navy is aware of some of the concerns outlined in today’s GAO report, and many of the issues are already being addressed. It is also important to note that the GAO report is specific to the Freedom-class of ships, not the Independence-class of ships, which are built in Mobile. I look forward to reviewing the report from the Navy’s Small Surface Combatant Task Force, due out at the end of this month, which will look at the future of the LCS program and the Navy’s small surface combatant. In the meantime, I will continue working with my colleagues in Congress and officials at the Pentagon to ensure that our men and women in uniform have the best resources available to do their job and protect our country.”

Austal USA released a statement that read, “The recently released GAO report on the LCS was primarily focused on the initial deployment of the USS Freedom (LCS 1).  As the shipbuilder of the Independence Variant, it would be inappropriate for Austal to comment on any aspect of the GAO’s findings on the USS Freedom’s deployment.”

“We remain encouraged with the support the Navy and Congress has for the program and we continue to work closely with the Navy to fulfill their warfighting needs. We are very confident in our design and the capabilities it has to meet the long term needs of the Navy,” Austal said.

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