McCain to Navy: Get shipshape or face severe cuts

WASHINGTON – Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., warned Thursday that the Navy could see the most severe budget cuts of all the services, especially if it doesn’t get its act together on two major weapons systems that Congress has put under hot lamps: the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and the Littoral Combat Ship.

“The Navy,” McCain said, “…could be the service that’s most adversely affected.”

Of those big-ticket items, McCain said the Navy’s “recent track record has been less than admirable,” and if its performance in developing those two programs doesn’t improve, the Navy would have a hard time fighting budget cuts.

His comments came during the confirmation hearing for Adm. Jonathan W. Greenert, vice chief of naval operations, to be the next chief of naval operations, the Navy’s top officer who sits on the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Greenert takes over at a time when there are many concerns about how President Barack Obama’s budget cutting demands will force the Navy to cut back or reschedule plans for the F-35 and LCS, but also how cuts will affect building or refitting submarines and the next aircraft carrier.

The viability of maintaining the entire Navy fleet size has been openly questioned by senators of both parties.

The Littoral Combat Ship has gone from receiving great news last fall, when it was announced the Navy would purchase 20 ships -- 10 each of two models by competing shipyards -- instead of 10 ships from one maker. But both models have had trouble, dogged by reports of corrosion and superstructure and weld cracks.

“The Navy continues to lack a single ship that is operationally effective or reliable,” McCain, ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said.

Meanwhile, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program is on Capitol Hill’s radar after a CQ Weekly cover story (for subscribers only) hit every member of Congress’ office, blasting the program as the most expensive weapons project in history, way over budget and overdue. Get your hands on a copy to read how each administration has passed the blame, and how an unworkable helmet targeting system planned for JSF pilots could scuttle the entire project.



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