WASHINGTON, D.C. - Marinette Marine is busy with orders to build some of the Navy's Littoral Combat Ships.
However, the Government Accountability Office is recommending to slow down the production of the ships.
A subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee debated the future of the LCS program in Washington Thursday.
Concerns include the performance of the ships and funding for the program.
LCS operations at Marinette Marine are in full swing.
The shipyard has a multi-billion dollar contract to build ten ships.
However, the LCS program is under scrutiny by the Government Accountability Office.
Thursday, GAO and Navy officials offered testimony at a hearing about the program's future, which was streamed on the Internet.
"We authorized four ships a year in 2012, which is the full rate anticipated, yet operational testing is not going to occur until 2019. So in my view, this strategy, up to this point on LCS, has been buy before fly," said Paul Francis, U.S. Government Accountability Office.
The GAO says one can be hopeful, but not yet confident, that the ship is going to deliver on its full capacity. There have been some recent mechanical issues with the Navy's first LCS, the USS Freedom.
"We say put strings on the FY14 money, and have the Navy come back and tell you what design changes are we anticipating on the ship," Francis said.
Navy officials defended the program saying the LCS provides vitally important capabilities, and is key to the future of all naval operations.
"LCS with its speed, shallow draft and persistence, coupled with modular architecture, offers the ability to operate within the inshore environment in the near land battle space," said Vice Admiral Richard Hunt, U.S. Navy.
The Navy says reliability issues have been identified and fixes are in place as the LCS 1 continues its deployment.
"Lessons learned from the lead ships have been thoroughly incorporated into the production plan. Lead ship design deficiencies have been corrected and the design is very stable," said the Hon. Sean Stackley, Assistant Secretary of the Navy.
The GAO recommends keeping the production of the ships to a minimum rate during the next scheduled purchase in 2016, at least until operational testing is done. Navy officials disagree.
"Now is not the time to slow the program and add cost. We have decisions to make before we proceed in FY16 beyond the current block buy. We will take a fully informed business and war fighting based approach to these decisions and we are committed to working with Congress to provide transparency as we formulate these decisions," said Stackley.
Marinette Marine officials didn't participate in Thursday's hearing. Officials from Lockheed Martin, the project's general contractor, emailed FOX 11 the following statement.
"The Lockheed Martin-led industry team is proud to work with the U.S. Navy to deliver the Freedom variant Littoral Combat ships. We are taking advantage of industry's investment in the Marinette Marine Corporation shipyard, including new processes and infrastructure, which has reduced ship construction costs. We've incorporated lessons-learned received from the Navy, and our experience maintaining the ships, into the lead ship and follow-on hulls, as reflected by improved performance seen during testing and early delivery of our second ship. We've also incorporated sustainment technologies within the ships to help reduce the maintenance and long term sustainment costs. We look forward to continuing to support the U.S. Navy in delivering this integrated capability, in support of its defense strategy."
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