The U.S. is planning to limit the Littoral Combat ship (LCS) procurement to 24, far short of Navy’s initial goal of 52 ships, according to Defense News.
The U.S. Navy is countering with proposals for higher numbers, but strongly advocates going no lower than 32 ships — a number that would continue production another one or two years.
If the number stops at 24, the LCS procurement would end with FY 2015 budget, with final decision yet to be made.
The annual budget process has been heavily disrupted due to sequester cuts, and the Pentagon’s insistence on producing two versions of the budget — a non-sequestration version, called the program objective memorandum (POM) — and an alternative POM (ALT POM), incorporating the mandated cuts and hence, far more severe reductions in purchases and programs.
Pentagon budget officials have focused primarily on the ALT POM, and in late August began switching to the POM. The OSD proposal to limit LCS to 24 ships is understood to be part of the ALT POM discussions.
One defense official was quoted by Defense News mandating the $52 billion cut is coming at the end of fiscal 2013, September 30.
In addition to supporting a reduction to 24 ships, OSD also reportedly is insisting the U.S. Navy place a top priority on fielding the mine countermeasures (MCM) module, one of three major mission packages under development for the LCS.
The U.S. Navy already has prioritized the MCM module in order to fulfill its most pressing operational need for the ships — three developmental packages have been delivered — but the effort has seen significant issues that have pushed back its operational readiness.
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