McCain threatens to halt funding for ‘unproven’ new Navy vessel

Lawmakers have come out swinging against a controversial combat ship program.

Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain criticized the Navy’s troubled Littoral Combat Ship on the Senate floor on Tuesday, arguing that a new report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) requires Congress to thoroughly review the program before granting funding for four new ships.

“In terms of actual cost and cost to our national security, we simply cannot afford to continue committing our limited resources to an unproven program that may eventually account for more than a third of the surface-combatant fleet,” McCain said.

“The American people are — quite rightly — tired of seeing their tax dollars wasted on disastrous defense programs,” he continued.

His comments echo those made at a House Armed Services seapower subcommittee last week, where some representatives voiced concern over the program. (McCain: American military leadership ‘worst I’ve ever seen’)

“I am troubled by the fact that we are purchasing first and testing second,” said California Democratic Rep. Jackie Speier. “I feel that there’s this rush to construction and we’ll worry about the details later.”

The Littoral Combat Ship, or LCS, is a new weapons system designed to perform missions in shallow waters against asymmetric threats. Two prototypes have already been completed and are currently undergoing testing.

Total estimated acquisition costs are expected at around $40 billion, although average construction costs per ship have doubled since the start of the program.

The GAO report indicates that the Navy is moving forward with plans to purchase over half of the planned LCS fleet before operational testing of mission-critical systems has been completed.

Many of these seem to “lack defined requirements,” and other systems further along in testing have shown performance problems and a lack of overall effectiveness.

“Right now, it seems like whatever combat-capability LCS can muster is driving its mission, not the the other way around,” McCain said. “In other words, LCS appears to be a ship looking for a mission.”

Testing of essential systems, such as mine countermeasures and surface warfare packages, are not expected to be completed until 2019 — years after many of the ships will have already been built.