House slams Navy on 'lack of transparency' on Littoral Combat Ship

Members of the House Armed Services Seapower subcommittee on Thursday approved an amendment requiring Navy leaders to provide a "comprehensive briefing" on the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS).

Offered by Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), the amendment claims the Navy has "not adequately informed Congress to the full extent possible on [LCS] program deficiencies, including mechanical and structural failures." 

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The ship is designed to operate in the shallow waters along the coast where other larger Navy warships cannot go.

The Navy has argued the ship will be a crucial part in its recently released shipbuilding strategy. The new Navy strategy has the fleet topping out at 300 warships over the next five years.

Hunter acknowledged the Navy testified before the House committee and met with committee members privately to discuss congressional concerns over the ship's construction, according to the amendment. 

However, the information provided fell short of members' expectations. 

That failure represents the overall "lack of transparency" by the Navy in discussing openly the issues concerning the ship's ongoing development, according to Hunter's amendment. 

The amendment was a way to get the Navy to "be more forthcoming with us" on LCS, according to Hunter. Now that desire will carry the weight of legislation behind it. 

Adoption of the Hunter amendment comes days after a scathing report released by the Project on Government Oversight outlined in detail the systematic structural and mechanical failures that have plagued the ship's construction. 

Sent to the heads of the congressional defense committees, the report chronicled multiple instances of structural cracks developing on board the USS Freedom, the first ship in the LCS class. 

In 2011, LCS prime contractor Lockheed Martin said it had resolved issues regarding welding cracks on the ship. 

But the report, based on Navy documents, also detailed "serious problems with critical ship-wide systems, including rampant corrosion and flooding" aboard the LCS that occurred during the Freedom's sea trials. 

Subcommittee members unanimously approved the Hunter amendment by voice vote and folded it into the panel's version of the defense legislation.