Navy Littoral Combat Ship (LCS): Background and Issues for Congress

Publication Date: October 2010

Publisher: Library of Congress. Congressional Research Service


Research Area: Military and defense

Type: Report


The Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) is a relatively inexpensive Navy surface combatant equipped with modular "plug-and-fight" mission packages. The basic version of the LCS, without any mission packages, is referred to as the LCS sea frame. The Navy wants to field a force of 55 LCSs. The first two (LCS-1 and LCS-2) were procured in FY2005 and FY2006 and were commissioned into service on November 8, 2008, and January 16, 2010. Another two (LCS-3 and LCS-4) were procured in FY2009 and are under construction. Two more (LCS-5 and LCS-6) were procured in FY2010. The Navy's FY2011-FY2015 shipbuilding plan calls for procuring 17 more LCSs in annual quantities of 2, 3, 4, 4, and 4. The Navy's proposed FY2011 budget requests $1,231.0 million in procurement funding for the two LCSs that the Navy wants to procure in FY2011, and $278.4 million in FY2011 advance procurement funding for the 11 LCSs that the Navy wants to procure in FY2012-FY2014. The Navy's proposed FY2011 budget also requests procurement funding to procure LCS module weapons and LCS mission packages, and research and development funding for the LCS program. There are currently two very different LCS designs--one developed and produced by an industry team led by Lockheed, and another developed and produced by an industry team led by General Dynamics. LCS-1 and LCS-3 use the Lockheed design; LCS-2 and LCS-4 use the General Dynamics design. On September 16, 2009, the Navy announced a proposed new LCS acquisition strategy. Under the strategy, the Navy would hold a competition to pick a single design to which all LCSs procured in FY2010 and subsequent years would be built. (The process of selecting the single design for all future production is called a down select.) The winner of the down select would be awarded a contract to build 10 LCSs over the five-year period FY2010-FY2014, at a rate of two ships per year. The Navy would then hold a second competition--open to all bidders other than the shipyard building the 10 LCSs in FY2010-FY2014--to select a second shipyard to build up to five additional LCSs to the same design in FY2012-FY2014 (one ship in FY2012, and two ships per year in FY2013-FY2014). These two shipyards would then compete for contracts to build LCSs procured in FY2015 and subsequent years. Section 121(a) and (b) of the FY2010 defense authorization act (H.R. 2647/P.L. 111-84 of October 28, 2009) grant the Navy contracting and other authority needed to implement this new LCS acquisition strategy. The Navy had earlier planned to make the down select decision and award the contract to build the 10 LCSs sometime this past summer, but the decision was delayed and reportedly will now occur within 90 days of September 15--the date by which the two industry teams were told by the Navy to submit new proposal revisions. On this basis, it would appear that the decision could be announced as late as December 14. On October 12, 2010, it was reported that a Defense Acquisition Board (DAB) review meeting on the LCS program that was scheduled for October 29 has been postponed to a later date that has not been set. The Navy states that it cannot announce its down select decision and award a contract to the winner until after the DAB meeting occurs. FY2011 issues for Congress include whether to approve, reject, or modify the Navy's request for FY2011 procurement and advance procurement funding for the LCS program, and whether to provide any additional direction to the Navy regarding LCS acquisition strategy.