Navy explains split LCS contract

Monday - 1/24/2011, 9:40am EST

David Lewis, Program Executive Officer for Ships, U.S. Navy

Click below to hear the interview

Download mp3

By Olivia Branco
Federal News Radio

The Navy has awarded a dual contract for building its newest class of warships. Lockheed Martin and Austal USA will each build 10 of the shore-hugging Littoral Combat Ships. The price tag is about $430 million per ship.

The person responsible for overseeing the deal is Rear Admiral David Lewis, the Navy's Program Executive Officer for Ships. He joined The Federal Drive with Tom Temin and Amy Morris to discuss the ships and the reasoning behind the deal.

The LCS's that are being built uses mission modules, which are removable from the ship.

The mission modules allow for war fighting.

"The ship has a sufficient self defense capability without the module but its real primary war fighting mission is performed by these removable modules," Lewis said. "There's three (mission modules) right now: one for mine war fare, one for submarine warfare and one for surface warfare."

These specific ships are designed to work in littorals which are close to the shores.

"They operate at very high speed in the littorals which is a very challenging environment for the Navy. They have shallower drafts than most Navy ships and the high speeds allows them to reposition and avoid threats as necessary in the littorals."

The Navy's original plan was to build 19 ships over the next five years. This plan, however, would have cost extra money by needing to down select and pick different ship builders each time.

Lewis said the original competition was open to anyone and was eventually down selected to two companies.

"We continued to have competition between those two shipbuilders, however we weren't having the pricing that we wanted so we changed our approach last year and implemented a down select."

"We said we wanted to buy 10 ships from one builder," Lewis said, "so these two companies that had been building LCS's either in service or under constriction then competed to build 10 ships and the pricing changed dramatically, they were very aggressive, they were very innovative in their pricing. It brought their proposal cost down so low that the Navy realized that this created an opportunity for us, so we changed our strategy and went to Congress and said we have an unexpected opportunity to proceed with a 20 ship award instead of a 10 ship award."

The original plan was delayed while the Navy got Congressional approval to move forward using both companies to each build ten ships.

"We don't incur a lot of costs and so this way we can build the ships that we have, build them in quantity and the taxpayers can save about 2.9 billion dollars in the process."

This story is part of Federal News Radio's daily DoD Report. For more defense news, click here.