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Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2010

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. McCAIN. Mr. President, I rise to oppose the littoral combat ships, LCS, provision in the continuing resolution, CR. That provision--which, according to the Congressional Budget Office, CBO, and the Congressional Research Service, CRS, could cost taxpayers as much as $2.9 billion more than the current acquisition strategy--simply does not belong in the CR. But once again we are looking at a cloture vote on a piece of ``must-pass'' legislation where the majority leader has filled the amendment tree and no amendments will be allowed.

The LCS program has a long, documented history of cost overruns and production slippages and yet we now find ourselves inserting an authorization provision at the 11th hour to yet again change the acquisition strategy of a program that has been plagued by instability since its inception.

Let's look at its track record over the past 5 years:

1st LCS funded in 2005--LCS 1 Commissioned in Nov 2008 at cost of $637 million;

2nd LCS funded in 2006--LCS 2 Commissioned in Jan 2010 at cost of $704 million;

3rd LCS funded in 2006--Canceled by Navy in April 2007, because of cost, and schedule growth;

4th LCS funded in 2006--Canceled by Navy in Nov 2007, because of cost and schedule growth;

5th LCS funded in 2007--Canceled by Navy in Mar 2007, because of cost and schedule growth;

6th LCS funded in 2007--Canceled by Navy in Mar 2007, because projected costs too high;

7th LCS funded in 2008--Canceled by Navy in Sep 2008, because projected costs too high;

8th LCS funded in 2009--Christened in Dec 2010 is about 80 percent complete; ``New LCS 3'';

9th LCS funded in 2009--Under construction is about 40 percent complete; ``New LCS 4.''

When the Navy first made its proposal to Congress just over 6 weeks ago, it failed to provide Congress with basic information we need to decide whether it should approve the Navy's request--including the actual bid prices, which would tell us how realistic and sustainable they are, and specific information about how capable each of the yards are of delivering the ships as needed, on time and on budget. Why don't we have that information? Because it's sensitive to the on-going competition.

Last week, in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, the General Accountability Office, GAO, the Congressional Research Service, CRS, and the Congressional Budget Office, CBO, raised important questions that Congress should have answers to before it considers approving the proposal.

Those questions included not only ``how much more (or less) would it cost for the Navy to buy LCS ships under its proposal'' but also ``how much would the cost be to operate and maintain two versions of LCS, under the proposal''. They also asked ``how confident can we be that the Navy will be able to stay within budgeted limits and deliver promised capability on schedule--given that all of the deficiencies affecting LCS' lead ships have not been identified and fully resolved'' and ``has the combined capability of the LCS seaframes with their mission modules been sufficiently demonstrated so that increasing the Navy's commitment to seaframes at this time would be appropriate?''

Those questions, and others, that GAO, CRS and CBO raised last week, are salient and should be answered definitively before we approve of the Navy's proposal. Every one of those witnesses conceded that more time would help Congress get those answers. And, considering this provision in connection with a Continuing Resolution, brought up at the 11th hour; during a lame-duck session; outside of the congressional budget-review period; and without specific information or the opportunity for full and open debate by all interested Members, does not give us that time. Buying into this process would be an abrogation of our constitutional oversight responsibility.

From 2005 to date, we have sunk $8 billion into the LCS program. And, what do we have to show for it? Only two boats commissioned and one boat christened--none of which have been shown to be operationally effective or reliable--and a trail of blown cost-caps and schedule slips. I suggest that, having made key decisions on the program hastily and ill-informed, we in Congress are partly to blame for that record. But, with the cost of the program from 2010 to 2015 projected to be about $11 billion, we can start to fix that--by not including this ill-advised provision in the CR.

I ask unanimous consent that my December 10, 2010, letter to the chairman and ranking member of the Appropriations Committee, asking them not to include the LCS provision in any funding measure, a letter from the Project on Government Oversight to Senator Levin and me, and the exchange of letters between me and the Chief of Naval Operations, CNO, be printed in today's Record.

There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the Record.


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