Navy Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) Program: Oversight Issues and Options for Congress


Publication Date: October 2009

Publisher: Library of Congress. Congressional Research Service


Research Area: Military and defense

Type: Report


The Navy is procuring a new class of surface combatant called the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS). The first LCS was procured in FY2005, another three were procured in FY2006, and two more were procured in FY2007. Current Navy plans call for procuring three LCSs in FY2008, and then about six per year in FY2009FY2016, for a planned total of 55 ships.

The LCS is a small, fast surface combatant that uses modular "plug-and-fight" mission packages, including unmanned vehicles (UVs). The ship's mission orientation can be changed by changing out its mission packages. The basic version of the LCS, without any mission packages, is referred to as the LCS sea frame.

The LCS's primary intended missions are countering enemy mines, submarines, and fast attack craft in littoral (near-shore) waters. Secondary missions include intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR); maritime intercept; special operations forces (SOF) support; and logistics support for movement of personnel and supplies. The LCS is also mentioned in connection with the Navy's role in what the Bush Administration refers to as the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT).

The LCS program raises several potential oversight issues for Congress, including the increase in reported LCS unit procurement costs, the program's total acquisition cost, the acquisition strategy for later ships in the program, and the funding of LCS mission packages.

Potential options for Congress regarding the LCS program include the following: approving the program as proposed by the Navy; using a block-buy contract for LCSs procured during the five-year period FY2007-FY2011; shifting procurement of LCS mission packages to the SCN account to make these costs more visible to Congress; shifting production of some LCSs to General Dynamics Bath Iron Works (GD/BIW) or Northrop Grumman Ship Systems (NGSS) or both to provide more work for one or both of these facilities; procuring a few LCSs and then evaluating them in exercises before deciding whether to put the LCS into larger-scale series production; and terminating the LCS program and invest more in other littoralwarfare improvements.

FY2007 Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 5122/P.L. 109-364). The conference report on the bill (H.Rept. 109-676 of September 25, 2006) approves the Navy's FY2007 procurement funding request for the LCS program

FY2007 Defense Appropriations Act (H.R. 5631/P.L. 109-289). The conference report on the bill (H.Rept. 109-676 of September 25, 2006) approves the Navy's request for $520.7 million in FY2007 procurement funding for the LCS program. The Senate report on the bill (S.Rept. 109-292 of July 25, 2006) had recommended funding the procurement of one LCS (rather than two) in FY2007, and rescinding funding for one of the three LCSs procured in FY2006. This report will be updated as events warrant.