CONGRESSWOMAN ELISE STEFANIK
H.R. 6494 is expected to be considered on the floor of the House on Wednesday, December 15, 2010, under a motion to suspend the rules, requiring a two-thirds majority vote for passage. The legislation was introduced on December 2, 2010, by Rep. Gene Taylor (D-MS).
H.R. 6494 would amend the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2010 (P.L. 111-84) relating to the Navy's Littoral Combat Ship program to: increase from 10 to 20 the number of such ships authorized to be procured, including any ship control and weapons systems that the Secretary of the Navy determines necessary; allow one or more contracts to be entered into for such procurement; and require the government to be permitted to conduct a competition for an additional shipyard for ship construction.
The Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) is a small, specialized surface-combat ship. The vessel was planned to be fast and relatively inexpensive—originally costing $220 million each—and meant to operate in coastal waters.
There are two competing versions of the LCS: Lockheed Martin's model being built in Wisconsin and General Dynamics' vessel built in Alabama. The Navy had planned to choose between the two contractors to build the next 10 LCS warships. However, the Navy recently asked Congress for authority to allow both companies to continue building the ships. The contractors' current bid prices were set to expire December 14, 2010, but this week the Navy announced the contractors had extended the deadline to December 30, 2010. The Navy claims that the bid costs are being kept confidential, even from Congress, because if Congress does not approve the two-shipyard plan, the service will have to select a single company. As a result, there is still a live competition and prices must be kept private.
Critics of the LCS, however, claim the ship is plagued by cost overruns and other problems. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report stating that the program faces technical risks because designs are not final and that future changes could cause costs to exceed Navy budgets. The GAO report, however, confirmed that having two shipyards working on the program could provide some insurance if one of the vessel versions does not work out as planned.
The FY 2010 Defense Authorization law (P.L. 111-84) authorized the purchase of only 10 ships, not the 20 envisioned by this legislation.
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has not produced a cost estimate for this bill as of press time.