The WasteWatcher: The Staff Blog of Citizens Against Government Waste

Further Scrutiny for the “Little Crappy Ship”

The WasteWatcher is the staff blog of Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) and the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW). For questions, contact blog@cagw.org.


A senior naval commander believes the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) lacks appropriate firepower. On March 28, 2013, Bloomberg News reported that in a classified memo Vice Admiral Tom Copeman, commander of naval surface forces, called on the Navy to reconsider a vessel with more offensive capability following the completion of the first 24 LCS ships. According to Bloomberg,

Nothing has haunted the LCS more than the perception that both variants are too lightly armed and may not survive an enemy attack.  The Pentagon’s chief weapons tester has cited flaws with the ship’s guns and concluded that its helicopter isn’t powerful enough to tow mine-hunting equipment. The ship “is not expected to be survivable in that it is not expected to maintain mission capability after taking a significant hit in a hostile combat environment,” Michael Gilmore, the weapons tester, said in a January report.

Designed to operate closer to shore than destroyers, and for missions such as clearing mines, hunting subs, and assisting with humanitarian relief, the LCS comes at a relatively cheap price ($440 million per ship as opposed to more than $1 billion for the larger Arleigh Burke-class destroyers).  However, with a senior naval commander calling for a premature end to the program so early in the acquisition process, odds do not favor taxpayers seeing a good return on their investment.   The program is slated to cost $37 billion and will produce 52 ships.  So far, four have been built, and the Navy will purchase an additional 20 by the end of 2015. The LCS program has suffered from multiple problems in the past, including corrosion due to a design flaw, and a crack in the ship’s hull.  The per-unit acquisition cost has doubled since 2005.  This increase is partly explained by the Navy’s pursuit of two versions of the ship, which “adds about $400 million in operating and maintenance costs over the lifetime of the vessels, according to Rear Admiral James Murdoch, who oversees the ship’s procurement.” Vice Admiral Copeman’s critique comes at an especially inopportune time, as the LCS is set to perform an increased role in the Obama Administration’s strategic “pivot” to Asia and the Pacific.

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