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New CNO Puts LCS Plan On Chopping Block

Posted by Carlo Munoz on

Washington: The Navy, like the rest of the services and the Pentagon, is adamant that all options are on the table when it comes to trimming the service’s bottom line.

But from aircraft carriers to overall force structure cuts, details on those options coming from the Navy have been sparse. And in recent weeks, it seems that each time service officials speak on the issue, the picture gets muddier and muddier.

But things got a bit clearer today when Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert, who has been tapped to replace current CNO Adm. Gary Roughead, said he wasn’t sold on the Navy’s buying plan for the Littoral Combat Ship.

“I stand by it now, [but] I will keep looking at it,” the incoming CNO said after testifying at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

The multi mission concept of the LCS overall is solid, but the specifics of that concept — as well as how the Navy plans to buy these ships — will need to be refined, Greenert said.

The Navy touted its dual contract awards for the LCS, issued earlier this year to Lockheed Martin and Austal USA, as a way to save money through competition.

Early estimates had the Navy raking in roughly $1 billion in savings as a result.

But when Sen. Scott Brown asked Greenert whether that $1 billion cost savings estimate still held water, the nominee ducked the question, saying he would have to double check with the program office.

While not actually admitting it, Greenert’s response did raise questions on whether the sea service could hit that goal.

Whatever those cost savings turn out to be, they will play a huge role in how the Navy plans to ride out the fiscally difficult years ahead.

Aside from the LCS, the service is clamoring for ways to square its long-term shipbuilding requirements, near-term readiness needs which are threatening to sink the entire fleet.

During today’s hearing, Greenert said the Navy could not afford to cut manpower levels and would have to look elsewhere to meet the White House’s deficit reduction goals.

The CNO nominee said the first place the Navy would look would be overhead costs, essentially continuing the efficiencies initiative started by former Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

To his credit, Greenert said he simply did not know how much lower can the Navy go in overhead costs, noting those decisions would be based on how much risk the service was willing to take.

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