Monday, July 10, 2017

Why Do We Keep Building LCS?

In some ways, the argument about LCS is over. They are coming to the fleet and we'll have to do the best as we can with them. As we search for as many ways as possible to grow the fleet, an existing platform that is already in production will almost always keep going until a replacement gets enough political support. 

For LCS, it isn't the ships utility or efficiency that is keeping it going, it is politics and votes mostly - but for those not completely cynical, there is a another reason too. This is a reason I support and can accept as long as we are moving to a new platform in the medium to long term. The reason? The industrial base.

Travis Tritton at The Examiner has a nice summary;
Armed Services Republicans and analysts say, despite the ship's shortcomings, there is at least one good reason to keep buying them: The Navy's shipbuilding industrial base.

"The industrial base issue is a very real issue and if we aren't buying enough ships to keep the industrial base alive then it makes it exponentially more difficult at any point in the future to expand," said Chris Harmer, a senior naval analyst at the Institute for the Study of War. The monohull Freedom class is built at Fincantieri Marinette Marine in Wisconsin. The aluminum trimaran Independence class is built at Austal's yard in Mobile, Ala.
There was a move to truncate the buy, or at least slow its roll, but it was short lived.

As our friend Bryan reminds everyone, politics always gets a 51% vote;
The Navy has decided two is the right number, but only after some of its own mixed signals. Acting Navy Secretary Sean Stackley testified to a Senate committee in May that one LCS would be enough to keep the shipyards operating and healthy.

"My theory is they figured Congress would stick at least another one in at some point. Why spend that half a billion dollars in the budget when you know they are going to put it in later?" said Bryan McGrath, deputy director for the Center for American Seapower at the Hudson Institute. "Instead, they took half a billion dollars and spread it around to higher priorities."

But the White House intervened on the same day Stackley testified and the service clarified that it would instead request two LCS hulls. It sent an official budget amendment to Congress in late June.

McGrath says the sudden shift likely came down to President Trump's promise to vastly increase the size of the Navy during and after the campaign. Alabama is a deep red state that went big for Trump, and Wisconsin flipped Republican to seal his victory.

"When it went over [to Congress] as one ship, I think the Alabama and Wisconsin delegations and lobbyists went nuts and reminded the political side of the White House what the president's promises were and got a very short-noticed order to go over to the Department of Defense to fund that second LCS," McGrath said.
Of course, you know where 'ole Sal stands. Chris and Bryan are correct - but the Front Porch is still waiting for all the free beer people owe us.
Taxpayer watchdog groups such as the Project on Government Oversight also see the ship as a boondoggle and a "big waste" of taxpayer money that is best avoided.

"When congressmen are making the industrial base argument for the LCS, they're basically telling us that the ship does not fit any real combat function," said Dan Grazier, a Jack Shanahan fellow at POGO. "They're basically giving up the ghost that the LCS isn't worth anything except as a practice venue for the shipbuilders."
Hat tip Bryan.

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