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Littoral Combat Ship Celebrated by SD Legislature Too Expensive, Understaffed, Not Flexible

Last spring, the Legislature approved and the Governor signed Senate Bill 33, an “emergency” act to spend $100,000 to throw a commissioning party for Littoral Combat Ship 38, the USS Pierre.

But just last week, the Navy quietly decommissioned the USS Independence, the ship whose design  the Pierre follows, after just eleven years in service, just 44% of its projected service time, because it was too expensive to maintain:

As part of the FY 2021 budget, the Navy said it was too expensive to upgrade the first four ships for a new era of “great power competition” and sought to decommission the quartet.

“They’re not unimportant, just in great power competition they were less important – so that’s why we took those savings and applied it to other areas,” then-Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Budget Rear Adm. Randy Crites said in 2020.

CNO Adm. Mike Gilday told USNI News in an interview it would take $2.5 billion to upgrade the first four ships – money he would rather put toward the emerging Constellation-class frigate (FFG-62) program.

In the current FY 2022 budget submission, the Navy is asking to cut four LCS – Coronado, Fort Worth, USS Detroit (LCS-7) and USS Little Rock (LCS-9).

The Navy commissioned Forth Worth in 2012 and Coronado in 2014. Detroit commissioned in 2016 and Little Rock in 2017.

The Navy’s plan to divest the hulls to free up money to invest in future ships or emerging weapons like hypersonics has met with widespread criticism in Congress [Sam LaGrone, “Navy Quietly Decommissions Littoral Combat Ship Independence,” USNI News, 2021.07.31].

These Littoral Combat Ships evidently aren’t providing nearly as much bang for the buck as the Navy wished. An LCS costs $70 million a year to operate; Arleigh Burke class guided-missile destroyers cost $81 million a year and pack much more punch. The LCS is also failing to deliver on promises of lower staffing needs:

[Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Michael] Gilday confirmed that the original crew concept for the LCS — as few as eight officers and 32 enlisted sailors in the Independence class, for example — had the adverse effect of pushing up maintenance costs by requiring contractors to do more of the work while in port. He said the plan is now to bring more of the maintenance work in-house [Thomas Nedwick and Tyler Rogoway, “Navy’s ‘Cheap’ Littoral Combat Ships Cost Nearly as Much to Run as Guided Missile Destroyers,” The Drive, 2021.04.12].

…and modular flexibility:

Then there are ongoing concerns relating to the long-awaited mission modulesthat give each of the LCS vessels a purpose. Originally, it was planned that these mission modules could be switched out rapidly while in port before that idea was abandoned. Each ship now has a single mission module installed relatively permanently, but the anti-submarine warfare and mine warfare mission packages will still not be available until next year [Nedwick and Rogoway, 2021.04.12].

When the Legislature passed SB 33, Senator Mary Duvall said the ship bearing her city’s name would serve as an educational tool. She probably didn’t expect that the USS Pierre might educate us in how not to spend government dollars for maximum effectiveness. But in that regard, the ship would simply be living up to its name.


  1. grudznick 2021-08-05

    Are you spelling that right, Mr. H?

  2. Mark Anderson 2021-08-05

    Is it Pierre or pier, or peer. All homophones right?

  3. Porter Lansing 2021-08-05

    As mentioned below, when a state doesn’t follow the majority of Americans in implementing mandated safety measures, Congress can withhold funds and assert pressure in a myriad of ways.

    A garbage skow, The U.S.S. South Dakota could be built and commissioned (in short order) and operated indefinitely.

    A perfect vessel for Fourth of July photo shoots.

  4. Joe 2021-08-05
  5. Arlo Blundt 2021-08-05

    Well..Littoral Ships are designed to get right up close to shore in shallow water and defend troops who are landing during an amphibious assault….the need for them became clear during the war to liberate Kuwait where the water is very shallow and we expected the Iraqis to meet us on the beaches. In the end, we did not invade amphibiously but went in by land from Saudi Arabia. We would need to have these ships to defend the United Arab Emirites, Bahrain and other Persian Gulf areas where the waters close to shore are very shallow. These ships are also built in Marinette in northern Wisconsin and have wooden hulls which do not set off magnetic mines. They are extremely fast for an ocean going ship. I’ve seen one of these ships on a shake down cruise on Lake Michigan. They sit high on the water and are pretty impressive as a water craft when underway. Don’t know why they cost half a billion or why it costs 200,000 to have a party to commission them. But…its the military, national defense, freedom isn’t free etc. the old mantras of the military industrial complex.

  6. Arlo Blundt 2021-08-05

    Doing a little research and find the Pierre isn’t scheduled to come off the blocks until well into the decade, 2026 or later….the whole program is way over budget (it started out as a 50 million dollar ship now its 11 times more expensive) and both Congress and Pentagon have lost enthusiasm for Littoral ships. Yet, Israel and the Sauds want to order some which may continue their production. Which leaves the question “Why are we appropriating 100,000 bucks and launching a state wide fund raiser for a huge commissioning party for a ship that won’t be built for 5 or 6 more years?” And…is it an Emergency??? Where does the money go in the interim???

  7. jerry 2021-08-05

    All of those ships break down, always have and always will. They are not practical so they got axed.

    My infantry unit provided a secure beachhead for the Republic of Korea Marines to make an amphibious assault. As line infantry, used to walking just about wherever we went, seeing this was good entertainment. When they hit the beachhead at the mouth of the Hoi An River, they regrouped and did what any line infantry would do, they advanced while we watched them. Those boys don’t play.

    Anyway, the boats all had to return to be fixed for what ailed them and there wasn’t an angry shot fired at them. Just a waste of time when Chinook helicopters would have done the same with a lot less maintenance and expense.

    “SLF Alpha and BLT 1/26, after spending a few weeks engaged in training and equipment repair, commenced Operation DEFIANT STAND on 7 September. The target once again was Barrier Island, along the coast between Quang Nam and Quang Tin provinces. This was the first amphibious landing with Republic of Korea Marines (the 2d ROKMC Brigade). The mission was to conduct search and clear operations in order to locate and capture or destroy all enemy forces, caches, and installations. U.S. Marine casualties during the operation were light, and the tanks and Ontos played no significant role. The BLT returned to its shipping and moved to Da Nang on 20 September. (CC 1/26, 9/69).”

    Read the old history and you can see that history repeats itself. Thankfully they will junk those things and build better or stay home. Now, can we get a refund on the money old dummy spent on her boondoggle?

  8. ABC 2021-08-06

    Waste of money. It’ll be commissioned when Biden is in his 2nd term.

    Spend money on a Federal unfinished ship, not unemployed South Dakota workers now.

    Yet this is what Republican and Independent voters signed up for.

  9. jerry 2021-08-06

    I thought they “signed up” for white supremacy. How does a floating target get you that? Have you bothered to take a look at the ship killers that exist? Make it out of plywood and call it a PT boat. Put Gilligan and the Captain on board, along with a movie star, a millionaire, a professor and of course, Mary Ann and away ya go.

  10. jerry 2021-08-06

    Correction: Neal implies that “Independent voters signed up for” That is wrong. I’m an Independent voter and I voted for freedom. I’m a flag waving Independent who hates tyranny rule (South Dakota), where crooked Republican legislators tilt the wheel of democracy to line their tailored jeans.

    Republicans own this failed system called South Dakota. The rest of the country sees this and votes Biden as they love freedom and not the tyrannical boot on their necks that Neal and his ilk would provide.

  11. mike from iowa 2021-08-06

    Boats or no boats, the invasion of Kuwait was another big magat lie by magat magats led by Hitler Weasel dumbass dubya. Back to regular scheduled topic.

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