Despite push back from Congress and industry, the Navy does not believe the fiscal year 2019 budget request, which calls for only one Littoral Combat Ship, will "threaten" the future frigate competition, according to the Navy's top acquisition official.
Rear Adm. John Neagley, program executive officer for LCS, testified last year that three LCS ships per year is the "right level" from an efficiency standpoint.
"I don't believe [FY-19 request] will threaten the competition itself," Navy acquisition executive Hondo Geurts said at a March 6 House Armed Services seapower and projection forces subcommittee hearing. "But obviously not operating at optimal production rates will cause some concerns to workers and we'll have to spin that workforce back up as we make that transition."
Concern was raised at the hearing by Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-AL), whose home state of Alabama houses LCS builders Lockheed Martin and Austal USA.
The shipbuilders have also issued statements expressing concern about the request.
"Austal is efficiently delivering an average four ships per year to the Navy (two LCS and two Expeditionary Fast Transports)," the company previously told Inside Defense in a statement. "Any reduction in volume would negatively impact the shipbuilding industrial base, including our suppliers (local and national), as well as the ability to efficiently transition to Frigate."
Speaking to reporters after the hearing, Geurts said the LCS in the FY-19 request would be the 33rd ship and above the Navy's requirement.
"We did that knowing that's a little above our requirement, but that it was absolutely critical [to] make sure we had both those yards in a position where they could compete fairly for the frigate," he said. "We believe we're in that position."