On Feb. 24, 2014, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel announced that the DOD was putting a lid on the LCS procurement. Originally, the Navy intended to acquire 52 LCSes, but Hagel’s February announcement stated that “no new contract negotiations beyond 32 ships will go forward.” He also said that he wanted the Navy to come up with “alternative proposals to procure a capable and lethal small surface combatant, generally consistent with the capabilities of a frigate.

 “I’ve directed the Navy to consider a completely new design, existing ship designs and a modified LCS.”

Hagel’s concerns were supported by a Government Accountability Office audit called “Littoral Combat Ship: Additional Testing and Improved Weight Management Needed Prior to Further Investments.” Among other things, the GAO audit concluded that both the trimaran and monohull versions of the LCS are overweight and don’t meet performance requirements for speed and endurance. Sen. John McCain also jumped on the LCS program. “Failure this comprehensive is incredible, even for our broken defense procurement system,” he said in a speech on the Senate floor, according to a report by Bloomberg News

With this as background, a recently released report from the Congressional Research Service reviews the history of the program development and provides lots of detailed information about the ships’ costs and shortcomings. The report was written by Ronald O’Rourke, a specialist in Naval Affairs for the Congressional Research Service, which is part of the Library of Congress. Reading the report, one can see how critics have found plenty to complain about, but the report concludes with a persuasive blog post written by Rear Admiral John F. Kirby, the Chief of Information for the Navy, and published June 10, 2013.

In the blog, Kirby writes that debates are healthy, but “as a guy who taught naval history at the Academy, I can’t help but think how very often we’ve been here before. Throughout our history, it seems, the boldest ideas are often the hardest to accept.” Kirby then provides examples, including Humphrey’s frigates and Ericcson’s Monitor, which “changed naval warfare forever.”

“The spirit of Monitor – and every other type of revolutionary ship – is alive and well in LCS,” writes Kirby. “As Monitor ushered in the era of armored ships and sounded the death knell for those of wood, so too will LCS usher in an era of netted, flexible and modular capabilities.

“Give it time.”

With a degree in English literature from the University of Washington (Go Dawgs!), journalism experience at the once-upon-a-time Seattle P-I, and at-sea experience as a commercial fisherman in Washington and Alaska, Bruce Buls has forged a career in commercial marine trade journalism, including stints at Alaska Fishermen’s Journal and National Fisherman, WorkBoat’s sister publications. Bruce spent 16 years as WorkBoat's technical editor before retiring in May 2015. He lives on Puget Sound’s Whidbey Island, about 20 miles north of Seattle (go 'Hawks!).