Lawmakers Call for GAO to Review $37 Billion Navy Vessel Program

Published Nov 20, 2012 3:46 PM by The Maritime Executive

Holes and cracks found in the hulls of littoral combat ships built by Lockheed Martin, Austal, and General Dynamics

Lawmakers are pushing for the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to review a ship program for 55 vessels, worth $37 billion dollars. The call for review was led by California Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D) who said in a statement that “serious flaws…threaten the operational capabilities of the ship.”

The Congresswoman went on to say that “it's disturbing that the Navy would accept a ship that fails to meet the basic requirements for a tugboat. The future of the fleet is corroding before our eyes.” Speier is a member of the House Armed Services Committee and will introduce an amendment to the FY2013 National Defense Authorization Act, requiring that the GAO review the Navy’s quality control.

“In their rush to move the program forward, the Navy appears to have given up quality control over its own ships,” Speier said. “Taxpayers have already paid $7.6 billion for the development and procurement of the LCS-1 variant, and for their money they are getting a ship that is cracking and corroding. We can't have sailors and taxpayers pay the costs of mismanagement.”

The Littoral Combat Ships are intended to clear mines, provide humanitarian aid and hunt for submarines. Both the trimaran model being built by General Dynamics and Austal and the Freedom Class model being built by Lockheed will be reviewed.  According to a Project on Government Oversight report released last month, the vessels require “several design corrections/improvements to mitigate hull stresses.”

A spokesperson for Lockheed Martin says questions raised about the first vessel, USS Freedom, are based on selective, outdated or inaccurate information. The company went on to say that the first vessel was delivered two years ahead of schedule and has provided important lessons for future ships.

Austal USA spokesperson Craig Hooper says his company is quietly getting the job done. Navy officials say they welcome criticisms because they help to focus and sharpen what needs to be worked on. They went on to say that the ships are very advanced and capable and any issues with the design are being addressed. 

On Wednesday, Rear Admiral Thomas Rowden announced that the USS Freedom would be deployed to Singapore for 10 months in the spring of next year. The next year will be spent prepping the ship for this mission. Singapore lies along the Strait of Malacca, the main link between the Indian and Pacific oceans where more than 40 percent of global trade passes.