Senate Republicans slam Navy's newest warship

Worries over the rising costs of the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS), combined with the vessel's lackluster performance during early testing, has pushed lawmakers to question whether the Navy should abandon the warship altogether. 

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"We need to fix it, or find something else. Quickly," Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) told Navy leaders on Wednesday during a Senate Armed Services seapower subcommittee hearing. 

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) pressed Navy acquisition chief Sean Stackley and Vice Adm. Allen Myers, the service's head of capabilities and resources integration, on the recent problems aboard the ship, given the LCS checkered testing and acquisition past. 

Most recently, engine problems aboard an LCS en route to a deployment in Singapore was left dead in the water before reaching port at the Asian nation. 

However, Meyers defended the ship's progress, telling subpanel members he was "confident at this point . . . about bringing the ship into the fleet." 

McCain fired back at the statement, adding Navy analysts only hold "10 percent confidence" the ship will become a fully operational member of the Navy's future force. 

Wednesday's round of questioning was fueled by recent reports that after spending billions to get the LCS ready for war, the vessel is still falling short of expectations.  

Service leaders found severe gaps "between ship capabilities and the missions the Navy will need LCS to execute," according to a confidential Navy report issued last year. 

“Failure to adequately address LCS requirements and capabilities will result in a large number of ships that are ill-suited to execute” the needs of military commanders worldwide, the report states. 

In particular, Navy leaders who drafted the report called into question the ship's survivability in combat.

But Navy leaders have already addressed a number of the issues brought up in the report and are working to get other fixes implemented quickly, a top service official said Wednesday. 

The report "provided some good insights" into what needed to be changed aboard the ship, Navy Staff Director and head of the LCS Council Vice Admiral Richard Hunt told reporters. 

"We are pretty confident we have fixed [some] issues and discounted others" raised in the review, Hunt said. 

"People [continue] to poke at issues that are old," Hunt added. "Right now, I feel comfortable in executing [the LCS] mission." 

As House and Senate lawmakers prepare to weigh in on the ship's financial future in the fiscal year 2014 defense budget, Navy leaders plan to be "more aggressive" in defending the LCS on Capitol Hill, Hunt said. 

One option will be to release a new report to Congress, updating many of the concerns outlined by Navy officials in the 2012 review of the warship. 

That new report is already complete, according to Hunt. However, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert has yet to approve its release to Congress, since much of the information included is classified, he added.