By SYDNEY J. FREEDBERG JR.
UPDATE: Source Says WH Will Fund LCS Add; CRS Naval Expert Comments
CAPITOL HILL: In a startling turnabout, the Trump Administration now “supports” adding a $541 million Littoral Combat Ship to yesterday’s 2018 budget request, Navy officials told Congress this afternoon. What, exactly, does that mean? The Navy doesn’t know.
Minutes before Navy witnesses were to testify before the House seapower subcommittee, they were given new language from the White House Office of Management & Budget: “The Administration recognizes the criticality of our industrial base and supports funding a second LCS in FY18.” OMB gave them no information, however, about whether “supports” is a promise of new money or just a vague sentiment that Congress should feel free to increase the Navy budget.
UPDATE BEGINS: The money will come, promised a source familiar with the administration’s discussions. “The administration’s going to support two (Littoral Combat) ships in the budget in FY18, and we’re figuring out the mechanism to do that,” the source assured me. “There will be a document of some sort, some sort of statement indicating that the administration is going to include in its budget request two LCS in ’18.” The administration will also probably urge the Hill to add a third LCS, leaving it up to Congress to find the funding for that ship.
Where’s the money coming from for the second LCS, the one the administration isfunding? “That is a question for which I do not have an answer,” the source admitted. “OMB and DoD are going to have to sort that out. All I can say is, it will be there.”
Land of Confusion
This was a pretty confusing way to get something in the budget, I said.
“Yeah. I don’t disagree,” said the source, chagrinned. “I wish that it had been done differently the whole way, (but) LCS is a controversial ship, and there are plenty of people who have concerns about it. (At DoD), I think they viewed LCS as a bill payer for other priorities.”
Ultimately, “the senior people in the administration said, we’re going to make the industrial base for our navy…a priority,” the source said, but by that point, “it was too late to put it in the physical budget document that were printed…The decision to include came rather late in the process and communicating that to the Navy and DoD writ large was a little delayed.” UPDATE ENDS
Read the full story at Breaking Defense