CNO: LCS Deployment Gap Part of Reset
By RICHARD R. BURGESS, Managing Editor
WASHINGTON — The Navy’s top officer told Congress that the gap in overseas deployments of littoral combat ships (LCSs) is part of a reset and that deployments will resume in 2019.
Testifying April 19 before the Senate Armed Services Committee along with Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer and Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert B. Neller, Adm. John M. Richardson, chief of naval operations (CNO), responded to a question from Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., as to why no LCSs were being deployed in 2018.
Cotton noted that 11 LCSs had been delivered to the Navy, a force level adequate to having some LCSs deployed.
“As you know, the littoral combat ship has been a program that has been through troubled times and I would say that, in the past, we probably pushed that ship out forward deployed a little bit ahead of its time, before the program had stabilized and we had done the appropriate testing and gained the confidence,” Richardson said in response.
“As soon as I got in as chief of naval operations, I directed the commander, Naval Surface Forces, to take a look at that program, rationalize it, and make it look a lot more like a normal shipbuilding program and a ship operating program. This is what led to changes in the maintenance approach, changes in the Blue/Gold crewing, the way we’re going to homeport these squadrons and forward-deploy them.
“2018 is a reflection of that shift,” Richardson said. “Starting in 2019, we’re going to start forward-deploying those. They’ll be sustainable, they’ll be more lethal by virtue of the enhancements we’re putting on those littoral combat ships. We have 24 deployments planned between  and .  is a reset year to get maintenance and manning in place so that we can deploy these in a sustainable way.”
So far, since March 2013, the Navy has deployed three LCSs in succession, all staged to Singapore: USS Freedom (LCS 1), USS Fort Worth (LCS 3) and USS Coronado (LCS 4). They conducted crew swaps to sustain long deployments.
Cotton said by the Navy’s own math the service “should still have two or three LCSs deployed this year. I think you may have just answered that question by saying this is a reset year to get to your future model.”
“This is part of that plan that Surface Forces put together,” Richardson said.
“We’ve spent $6 billion on these ships,” Cotton said. “I think the taxpayer deserves to have them out, performing their job.”
“I could not agree more,” the CNO said.