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Navy Taken to Task on Littoral Combat Ship by Lawmakers

The House committee that authorizes military spending criticized the Navy for failing to inform it “to the full extent possible” on failings with its new Littoral Combat Ship.

The House Armed Services Committee in its report on the fiscal 2013 budget called for a full briefing within 30 days of the measure’s signing into law, adopting a proposal by Representative Duncan Hunter, a California Republican and former Marine. The House will debate this week the defense bill authorizing $4 billion more than the Obama administration proposed. The Senate hasn’t acted on its version.

“The committee is aware of the considerable issues that have plagued” initial vessels in the planned 55-ship, $37 billion Littoral Combat Ship program, the committee said in the report made public today. “While the Navy has briefed the committees on problems, the committee believes the Navy has not adequately informed Congress to the full extent possible on program deficiencies, including mechanical and structural failures,” it said.

The full committee nonetheless supported the Navy’s $2.2 billion request for the next four vessels, including $429.4 million in development funds. The House defense appropriations subcommittee also has approved funding for the four ships. The full appropriations committee considers the budget May 17.

The House Armed Services panel directed the U.S. Government Accountability Office to review how the Navy handled quality issues such as cracks and corrosion on the initial vessels.

The Littoral Combat Ship is intended to clear mines, hunt for submarines, defend itself against swarming small vessels and provide humanitarian relief in shallow coastal waters.

Cracks were found in a version being built by a team led by Lockheed Martin Corp. Corrosion was found in the first vessel made by Austal Ltd. and General Dynamics Corp.

The Navy and the shipbuilders have said the flaws have been corrected, a view endorsed by one of the Senate’s most vocal critics of costs and delays in weapons programs, Arizona Republican Senator John McCain.

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