Navy Light Amphibious Warship (LAW) Program: Background and Issues for Congress

Navy Light Amphibious Warship (LAW)
October 8, 2020
Program: Background and Issues for Congress
Ronald O'Rourke
The Navy’s new Light Amphibious Warship (LAW) program envisions procuring a class of 28 to
Specialist in Naval Affairs
30 new amphibious ships to support the Marine Corps, particularly in implementing a new

Marine Corps operational concept called Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations (EABO). The
Navy’s proposed FY2021 budget requests $30 million in research and development funding for

initial industry studies and concept design work on the ship. The Navy envisions procuring the
ships on an expedited schedule, with the first LAWs potentially being procured in FY2023 and a total of 28 notionally being
procured by FY2026.
The EABO concept was developed with an eye toward potential conflict scenarios with China in the Western Pacific. Under
the concept, the Marine Corps envisions, among other things, having reinforced-platoon-sized Marine Corps units maneuver
around the theater, moving from island to island, to fire anti-ship cruise missiles (ASCMs) and perform other missions so as
to contribute, alongside Navy and other U.S. military forces, to U.S. operations to counter and deny sea control to Chinese
forces. The LAW ships would be instrumental to these operations, with LAWs embarking, transporting, landing, and
subsequently reembarking these small Marine Corps units.
As conceived by the Navy and Marine Corps, LAWs would be much smaller and individually much less expensive to procure
and operate than the Navy’s current amphibious ships. The Navy wants LAWs to be 200 to 400 feet in length, and to have a
unit procurement cost to be “several digit millions not triple digit millions,” a phrase that might be interpreted to mean a unit
procurement cost of less than $100 million, or perhaps one that is closer to $100 million than to several hundred million
dollars.
The LAW as outlined by the Navy is small enough that it could be built by any of several U.S. shipyards. The Navy states
that in response to an initial request for information (RFI) about the LAW, it received responses from 13 firms, including
nine shipyards. The Navy’s baseline preference is to have a single shipyard build all 28 to 30 ships, but the Navy is open to
having them built in multiple yards to the same design if doing so could permit the program to be implemented more quickly
and/or less expensively.
The LAW program poses a number of potential oversight matters for Congress, including the merits of the EABO concept,
how LAWs would fit into the Navy’s future fleet architecture, the Navy’s preliminary unit procurement cost target for the
ship, and the industrial-base implications of the program.
The issue for Congress is whether to approve, reject, or modify the Navy’s FY2021 funding request and envisioned
acquisition strategy for the program. Congress’s decisions regarding the program could affect Navy and Marine Corps
capabilities and funding requirements and the U.S. shipbuilding industrial base.
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Contents
Introduction ..................................................................................................................................... 1
Background ..................................................................................................................................... 1

U.S. Navy Amphibious Ships in General .................................................................................. 1
Roles and Missions ............................................................................................................. 1
Current Types of Amphibious Ships ................................................................................... 2
Amphibious Fleet Force-Level Goal ......................................................................................... 2
Current Force-Level Goal ................................................................................................... 2
Potential New Force-Level Goal ........................................................................................ 3
Light Amphibious Warship (LAW) Program ............................................................................ 6
Overview ............................................................................................................................. 6
Ship Design ......................................................................................................................... 6
Procurement Schedule ........................................................................................................ 7
Procurement Cost .............................................................................................................. 10
Potential Builders .............................................................................................................. 10
Acquisition Strategy.......................................................................................................... 10
FY2021 Funding ................................................................................................................ 11
Issues for Congress ........................................................................................................................ 12
EABO Operational Concept .................................................................................................... 12
LAWs Within Overall Navy Fleet Architecture ...................................................................... 13
Preliminary Cost Target ........................................................................................................... 13
Potential Alternative of Adapting Existing Army LSVs ......................................................... 14
Industrial-Base Implications ................................................................................................... 16
Legislative Activity for FY2021 .................................................................................................... 17
Summary of Congressional Action on FY2021 Funding Request .......................................... 17
FY2021 National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 6395/S. 4049) ........................................ 17

House ................................................................................................................................ 17
Senate ................................................................................................................................ 18
FY2021 DOD Appropriations Act (H.R. 7617) ...................................................................... 18
House ................................................................................................................................ 18

Figures
Figure 1. Notional Design for a LAW-Like Ship ............................................................................ 8
Figure 2. Notional Design for a LAW-Like Ship ............................................................................ 8
Figure 3. Notional Design for a LAW-Like Ship ............................................................................ 9
Figure 4. Notional Design for a LAW-Like Ship ............................................................................ 9
Figure 5. Besson-Class Logistics Support Vessel (LSV)............................................................... 14

Tables
Table 1. Congressional Action on FY2021 Procurement Funding Request .................................. 17

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Appendixes
Appendix. Proposed Change in Amphibious-Ship Force Architecture ......................................... 20

Contacts
Author Information ........................................................................................................................ 22

Congressional Research Service

Navy Light Amphibious Warship (LAW) Program: Background and Issues for Congress

Introduction
This report provides background information and issues for Congress on the Navy’s new Light
Amphibious Warship (LAW) program, which envisions procuring a class of 28 to 30 new
amphibious ships to support the Marine Corps, particularly in implementing a new Marine Corps
operational concept called Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations (EABO). The Navy’s
proposed FY2021 budget requests $30 million in research and development funding for initial
industry studies and concept design work on the ship. The Navy envisions procuring the ships on
an expedited schedule, with the first LAWs potentially being procured in FY2023 and a total of
28 notionally being procured by FY2026.
The LAW program poses a number of potential oversight matters for Congress. The issue for
Congress is whether to approve, reject, or modify the Navy’s FY2021 funding request and
envisioned acquisition strategy for the program. Congress’s decisions regarding the program
could affect Navy and Marine Corps capabilities and funding requirements and the U.S.
shipbuilding industrial base.
A separate CRS report discusses the Navy’s programs for building much-larger LPD-17 Flight II
and LHA-class amphibious ships.1 Other CRS reports provide an overview of new Navy and
Marine Corps operational concepts, including EABO, the overall strategic and budgetary context
in which amphibious ship and other Navy shipbuilding programs may be considered, and the
Marine Corps’ plans for redesigning Marine Corps units and their equipment.2
Background
U.S. Navy Amphibious Ships in General
Roles and Missions
Navy amphibious ships are operated by the Navy, with crews consisting of Navy personnel. They
are battle force ships, meaning ships that count toward the quoted size of the Navy. The primary
function of Navy amphibious ships is to lift (i.e., transport) embarked U.S. Marines and their
weapons, equipment, and supplies to distant operating areas, and enable Marines to conduct
expeditionary operations ashore in those areas. Although amphibious ships can be used to support
Marine landings against opposing military forces, they are also used for operations in permissive
or benign situations where there are no opposing forces. Due to their large storage spaces and
their ability to use helicopters and landing craft to transfer people, equipment, and supplies from

1 CRS Report R43543, Navy LPD-17 Flight II and LHA Amphibious Ship Programs: Background and Issues for
Congress
, by Ronald O'Rourke.
2 CRS Report RL32665, Navy Force Structure and Shipbuilding Plans: Background and Issues for Congress, by
Ronald O'Rourke; and CRS Insight IN11281, New U.S. Marine Corps Force Design Initiatives, by Andrew Feickert.
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ship to shore without need for port facilities,3 amphibious ships are potentially useful for a range
of combat and noncombat operations.4
On any given day, some of the Navy’s amphibious ships, like some of the Navy’s other ships, are
forward-deployed to various overseas operating areas in multiship formations called amphibious
groups (ARGs). Amphibious ships are also sometimes forward-deployed on an individual basis,
particularly for conducting peacetime engagement activities with foreign countries or for
responding to smaller-scale or noncombat contingencies.
Current Types of Amphibious Ships
The Navy’s current amphibious-ship force consists entirely of large amphibious ships, including
the so-called “big-deck” amphibious assault ships, designated LHA and LHD, which look like
medium-sized aircraft carriers, and the smaller (but still quite sizeable) amphibious ships,
designated LPD or LSD, which are sometimes called “small-deck” amphibious ships.5 As
mentioned earlier, a separate CRS report discusses the Navy’s current programs for procuring
new LHA- and LPD-type ships.6 The LAWs discussed in this CRS report would be much smaller
than the Navy’s current amphibious ships.
Amphibious Fleet Force-Level Goal
Current Force-Level Goal
The Navy’s current 355-ship force-level goal, which was released on December 15, 2016, calls
for achieving and maintaining a fleet of 355 ships, including 38 amphibious ships, of which 12
are to be 12 LHA/LHD-type ships and 26 are to be LPD-17 Flight I and Flight II ships.7 This 38-

3 Amphibious ships have berthing spaces for Marines; storage space for their wheeled vehicles, their other combat
equipment, and their supplies; flight decks and hangar decks for their helicopters and vertical take-off and landing
(VTOL) fixed-wing aircraft; and in many cases well decks for storing and launching their landing craft. (A well deck is
a large, garage-like space in the stern of the ship. It can be flooded with water so that landing craft can leave or return
to the ship. Access to the well deck is protected by a large stern gate that is somewhat like a garage door.)
4 Amphibious ships and their embarked Marine forces can be used for launching and conducting humanitarian-
assistance and disaster-response (HA/DR) operations; peacetime engagement and partnership-building activities, such
as exercises; other nation-building operations, such as reconstruction operations; operations to train, advise, and assist
foreign military forces; peace-enforcement operations; noncombatant evacuation operations (NEOs); maritime-security
operations, such as anti-piracy operations; smaller-scale strike and counter-terrorism operations; and larger-scale
ground combat operations. Amphibious ships and their embarked Marine forces can also be used for maintaining
forward-deployed naval presence for purposes of deterrence, reassurance, and maintaining regional stability.
5 U.S. Navy amphibious ships have designations starting with the letter L, as in amphibious landing. LHA can be
translated as landing ship, helicopter-capable, assault; LHD can be translated as landing ship, helicopter-capable, well
deck; LPD can be translated as landing ship, helicopter platform, well deck; and LSD can be translated as landing ship,
well deck. Whether noted in the designation or not, almost all these ships have well decks. The exceptions are LHAs 6
and 7, which do not have well decks and instead have expanded aviation support capabilities. For an explanation of
well decks, see footnote 3. The terms “large-deck” and “small-deck” refer to the size of the ship’s flight deck.
6 CRS Report R43543, Navy LPD-17 Flight II and LHA Amphibious Ship Programs: Background and Issues for
Congress
, by Ronald O'Rourke.
7 For more on the Navy’s 355-ship force-level goal, see CRS Report RL32665, Navy Force Structure and Shipbuilding
Plans: Background and Issues for Congress
, by Ronald O'Rourke. For a more detailed review of the 38-ship force
structure requirements, see Appendix A of archived CRS Report RL34476, Navy LPD-17 Amphibious Ship
Procurement: Background, Issues, and Options for Congress
, by Ronald O'Rourke.
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Navy Light Amphibious Warship (LAW) Program: Background and Issues for Congress

ship force-level goal predates the initiation of the LAW program and consequently includes no
LAWs.
The 38-ship force-level goal is intended to meet a wartime requirement for having enough
amphibious lift for transporting the assault echelons of two Marine Expeditionary Brigades
(MEBs), a requirement known as the 2.0 MEB lift requirement. The 2.0 MEB lift requirement
dates to 2006. The translation of this lift requirement into a Marine Corps-preferred force-level
goal of 38 ships dates to 2009, and the Navy’s formal incorporation of the 38-ship goal (rather
than a more fiscally constrained goal of 33 or 34 ships) into the Navy’s overall ship force-
structure goal dates to 2016.8 Navy and Marine Corps officials have testified in the past that fully
meeting U.S. regional combatant commander requests for day-to-day forward deployments of
amphibious ships (as opposed to wartime needs) would require a force of 50 or more amphibious
ships of the current large types.9
The 38-ship force-level goal is a target that the Navy wants to achieve and maintain in coming
years. Under the Navy’s FY2021 budget submission, the Navy projected that it would have 33
amphibious ships at the end of FY2020, including 10 LHA/LHD-type ships and 23 LSD/LPD-
type ships.10
Potential New Force-Level Goal
Overview
The Navy and DOD since 2019 have been working to develop a new force-level goal to replace
the Navy’s current 355-ship force-level goal. The conclusion of this work and the release of its
results to Congress have been delayed repeatedly since late 2019.
Remarks from Navy and DOD officials since 2019 have indicated that the Navy’s next force-
level goal will introduce at least some elements of a once-in-a-generation change in fleet
architecture, meaning basic the types of ships that make up the Navy and how these ships are
used in combination with one another to perform Navy missions. This new fleet architecture is
expected to be more distributed than the fleet architecture reflected in the 355-ship goal or
previous Navy force-level goals. In particular, the new fleet architecture is expected to feature
 a smaller proportion of larger ships (such as large-deck aircraft carriers, cruisers,
destroyers, large amphibious ships, and large resupply ships);
 a larger proportion of smaller ships (such as frigates, corvettes, smaller
amphibious ships, smaller resupply ships, and perhaps smaller aircraft carriers);
and

8 For additional discussion of the 2.0 MEB lift goal and earlier amphibious lift goals dating back to 1980, see Appendix
A of archived CRS Report RL34476, Navy LPD-17 Amphibious Ship Procurement: Background, Issues, and Options
for Congress
, by Ronald O'Rourke.
9 For example, in testimony to the Seapower and Projection Forces subcommittee of the House Armed Services
Committee on February 25, 2015, Marine Corps Lieutenant General Kenneth J. Glueck, Jr., Deputy Commandant for
Combat Development and Integration and Commanding General of the Marine Corps Combat Development Command,
stated that the number needed to fully meet regional combatant commander demands for forward-deployed amphibious
ships is “close to 54.” (Source: Spoken testimony of Lieutenant General Glueck, as reflected in transcript of hearing.)
10 Department of the Navy, Highlights of the Department of the Navy FY 2021 Budget, February 10, 2020, Figure 3-2
on p. 3-2.
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 a new third tier of surface vessels about as large as corvettes or large patrol craft
that will be either lightly manned, optionally manned, or unmanned, as well as
large unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs).
Navy and DOD leaders believe that shifting to a more distributed fleet architecture is
operationally necessary, to respond effectively to the improving maritime anti-
access/area-denial (A2/AD) capabilities of other countries, particularly China;11
technically feasible as a result of advances in technologies for UVs and for
networking widely distributed maritime forces that include significant numbers
of UVs; and
affordable—no more expensive, and possibly less expensive, than the current
fleet architecture, so as to fit within expected future Navy budgets.
On October 6, 2020, in remarks made in Washington, DC, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper
provided some details on the Trump Administration’s new Navy force-level goal, which it calls
Battle Force 2045. This new force-level goal, which appears generally consistent with the more
distributed fleet architecture outlined above, calls for achieving a fleet of more than 500 manned
and unmanned ships by 2045, including 355 manned ships prior to 2035. In his remarks, Esper
stated: “The Marine Corps is currently in the process of implementing its force structure plan and
I support the Commandant’s visions to recalibrate to great power competition. As such, we see a
need for more amphibious warfare ships than previously planned, in the 50 to 60 range, but more
work needs to be done in this area, as well.”12 This figure of 50 to 60 amphibious ships is
understood to include some number of LAWs, though the exact figure may differ somewhat from
that Navy’s current notionally planned total of 28 to 30 LAWs.13
Operational Rationale
To improve their ability to perform various missions in coming years, including a potential
mission of countering Chinese forces in a possible conflict in the Western Pacific, the Navy and

11 See, for example, David B. Larter, “With China Gunning for Aircraft Carriers, US Navy Says It Must Change How It
Fights,” Defense News, December 6, 2019; Arthur H. Barber, “Redesign the Fleet,” U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings,
January 2019. Some observers have long urged the Navy to shift to a more distributed fleet architecture, on the grounds
that the Navy’s current architecture—which concentrates much of the fleet’s capability into a relatively limited number
of individually larger and more expensive surface ships—is increasingly vulnerable to attack by the improving A2/AD
capabilities (particularly anti-ship missiles and their supporting detection and targeting systems) of potential
adversaries, particularly China. Shifting to a more distributed architecture, these observers have argued, would

complicate an adversary’s targeting challenge by presenting the adversary with a larger number of Navy units
to detect, identify, and track;

reduce the loss in aggregate Navy capability that would result from the destruction of an individual Navy
platform;

give U.S. leaders the option of deploying USVs and UUVs in wartime to sea locations that would be
tactically advantageous but too risky for manned ships; and

increase the modularity and reconfigurability of the fleet for adapting to changing mission needs.
For more on China’s maritime A2/AD capabilities, see CRS Report RL33153, China Naval Modernization:
Implications for U.S. Navy Capabilities—Background and Issues for Congress
, by Ronald O'Rourke.
12 Department of Defense, “Secretary Of Defense Remarks at CSBA [Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments]
on the NDS [National Defense Strategy] and Future Defense Modernization Priorities,” transcript of remarks, October
6, 2020.
13 For more on Battle Force 2045, see CRS Report RL32665, Navy Force Structure and Shipbuilding Plans:
Background and Issues for Congress
, by Ronald O'Rourke.
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Marine Corps want to implement a new operational concept called Distributed Maritime
Operations (DMO).14 DMO calls for U.S. naval forces (meaning the Navy and Marine Corps)15 to
operate at sea in a less concentrated, more distributed manner, so as to complicate an adversary’s
task of detecting, identifying, tracking, and targeting U.S. naval forces, while still being able to
bring lethal force to bear against adversary forces. To support the implementation of DMO, the
Navy wants to shift to the new and more distributed fleet architecture outlined above.
In parallel with DMO, and with an eye toward potential conflict scenarios in the Western Pacific
against Chinese forces, the Marine Corps has developed two supporting operational concepts,
called Littoral Operations in a Contested Environment (LOCE) and Expeditionary Advanced
Base Operations (EABO). Under the EABO concept, the Marine Corps envisions, among other
things, having reinforced-platoon-sized Marine Corps units maneuver around the theater, moving
from island to island, to fire anti-ship cruise missiles (ASCMs) and perform other missions so as
to contribute, alongside Navy and other U.S. military forces, to U.S. operations to counter and
deny sea control to Chinese forces.
More specifically, the Marine Corps states that the EABO concept includes, among other things,
establishing and operating “multiple platoon-reinforced-size expeditionary advance base sites that
can host and enable a variety of missions such as long-range anti-ship fires, forward arming and
refueling of aircraft, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance of key maritime terrain, and
air-defense and early warning,”16 The use of Marine Corps units to contribute to U.S. sea-denial
operations against an opposing navy by shooting ASCMs would represent a new mission for the
Marine Corps.17
The LAW ships would be instrumental to these operations, with LAWs embarking, transporting,
landing, and subsequently reembarking these small Marine Corps units. An August 27, 2020,
press report states: “Maj. Gen. Tracy King, the director of expeditionary warfare on the chief of
naval operations’ staff (OPNAV N95), said today that LAW was perhaps the most important
investment the Marine Corps was making to optimize itself for expeditionary advance base
operations (EABO).”18

14 For additional discussion, see CRS Report RL32665, Navy Force Structure and Shipbuilding Plans: Background and
Issues for Congress
, by Ronald O'Rourke, and CRS Report RL33153, China Naval Modernization: Implications for
U.S. Navy Capabilities—Background and Issues for Congress
, by Ronald O'Rourke.
15 Although the term naval is often used to refer specifically to the Navy, it more properly refers to both the Navy and
Marine Corps, because both the Navy and Marine Corps are naval services. Even though the Marine Corps sometimes
operates for extended periods as a land fighting force (as it has done in recent years, for example, in Afghanistan and
Iraq), and is often thought of as the country’s second land army, it nevertheless is, by law, a naval service. 10 U.S.C.
§8001(a)(3) states, “The term ‘member of the naval service’ means a person appointed or enlisted in, or inducted or
conscripted into, the Navy or the Marine Corps.” DON officials sometimes refer to the two services as the Navy-
Marine Corps team. For additional discussion, see CRS In Focus IF10484, Defense Primer: Department of the Navy,
by Ronald O'Rourke.
16 Emailed statement from Marine Corps as quoted in Shawn Snow, “New Marine Littoral Regiment, Designed to Fight
in Contested Maritime Environment, Coming to Hawaii,” Marine Times, May 14, 2020.
17 For press articles discussing these envisioned operations, see, for example, David Axe, “Meet Your New Island-
Hopping, Missile-Slinging U.S. Marine Corps,” Forbes, May 14, 2020; Shawn Snow, “New Marine Littoral Regiment,
Designed to Fight in Contested Maritime Environment, Coming to Hawaii,” Marine Times, May 14, 2020; William
Cole (Honolulu Star-Advertiser), “The Marine Corps Is Forming a First-of-its-Kind Regiment in Hawaii,”
Military.com, May 12, 2020; Joseph Trevithick, “Marines To Radically Remodel Force, Cutting Tanks, Howitzers In
Favor Of Drones, Missiles,” The Drive, March 23, 2020; Chris “Ox” Harmer, “Marine Boss’s Audacious Plan To
Transform The Corps By Giving Up Big Amphibious Ships,” The Drive, September 5, 2019.
18 Megan Eckstein, “Marines Already In Industry Studies for Light Amphibious Warship, In Bid to Field Them
ASAP,” USNI News, August 27 (updated August 28), 2020. See also Paul McLeary, “‘If It Floats, It Fights:’ Navy’s
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The survivability of the LAW ships would come from their ability to hide among islands and
other sea traffic, from defensive support they would receive from other U.S. Navy forces, and
from the ability of their associated Marine Corps units to fire missiles at Chinese ships and
aircraft that could attack them with their own missiles (which can be viewed as an application of
the notion that the best defense is a good offense).
For excerpts from the Commandant’s Planning Guidance that further discuss the proposed
change in the amphibious-ship force architecture and the EABO-related operational rationale
behind it, see the Appendix.
Light Amphibious Warship (LAW) Program19
Overview
The LAW program envisions procuring a class of 28 to 30 new ships that would be much smaller
and individually much less expensive to procure and operate than the Navy’s current amphibious
ships. The Navy’s proposed FY2021 budget requests $30 million in research and development
funding for initial industry studies and concept design work on the ship. The Navy envisions
procuring the ships on an expedited schedule, with the first LAWs potentially being procured in
FY2023 and a total of 28 notionally being procured by FY2026.
Ship Design
The Navy wants LAWs to be a relatively simple and relatively inexpensive ships with the
following features, among others:
 a minimum length of 200 feet;
 a maximum draft of 12 feet;
 a ship’s crew of no more than 40 Navy sailors;
 an ability to embark at least 75 Marines;
 a minimum of 8,000 square feet of cargo area for the Marines’ weapons,
equipment, and supplies;
 a stern or bow landing ramp for moving the Marines and their weapons,
equipment, and supplies the ship to shore (and vice versa) across a beach;
 a modest suite of C4I equipment;20
 a 25mm or 30mm gun system and .50 caliber machine guns for self-defense;

New Small Ship Strategy,” Breaking Defense, August 28, 2020.
19 Unless otherwise stated, information in this section about the LAW is taken from Navy briefing slides and Navy
answers to industry questions from LAW program industry days that were held on March 4 and April 9, 2020, and
posted on March 20, May 5, and May 7, 2020, at “RFI: US Navy Light Amphibious Warship (LAW),”
https://beta.sam.gov/opp/90a9ece86ade48089e9f6d57d2969d23/view, accessed by CRS on May 15, 2020.
For press articles about the LAW, see Megan Eckstein, “Navy Researching New Class of Medium Amphibious Ship,
New Logistics Ships,” USNI News, February 20, 2020. See also Rich Abott, “FY 2021 Request Starts Work on Future
Amphibs and Logistics Ships,” Defense Daily, February 20, 2020; David Axe, “This Weird Little Ship Could Be the
Future of Amphibious Warfare,” National Interest, February 24, 2020; Mallory Shellbourne, “Navy begins pursuit of
Light Amphibious Warship,” Inside Defense, March 26, 2020; Joseph Trevithick, “Navy Wants To Buy 30 New Light
Amphibious Warships To Support Radical Shift In Marine Ops,” The Drive, May 5, 2020.
20 C4I is command and control, communications, computers, and intelligence.
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 a minimum transit speed of 14 knots;
 a minimum unrefueled transit range of 3,500 nautical miles;
 an ability to operate within fleet groups or deploy independently; and
 a 10-year expected service life.
In addition to the above points, the Navy states that the LAW’s design can be based on a
commercial-ship design.
A ship fitting the requirements listed above would be only a fraction as large as the Navy’s
current amphibious ships. Compared with LHA/LHD-type ships, which are 844 to 855 feet long
and have a full load displacements between 40,000 and 45,000 tons, and LPD-17 class ships,
which are 684 feet long and have a full load displacement of 24,900 tons, a LAW with a length of
200 to 400 feet could have a displacement of between 1,000 and 8,000 tons.21
The LAW’s maximum draft of 12 feet is intended to permit the ship to transit shallow waters on
its way to and from landing beaches. The Navy prefers that the ship’s 8,000 square feet of cargo
space be in the form of open deck storage. Unlike most of the Navy’s current amphibious ships,
the LAW would not have a well deck.22 The minimum transit speed of 14 knots is less than the
approximate 22-knot maximum sustained speed of larger U.S. Navy amphibious ships, but it is a
relatively fuel-efficient speed for moving ships through water,23 which would permit the ship to
be equipped with a less powerful and consequently less expensive propulsion plant. The 10-year
expected service life is considerably less than the 30- to 45-year expected service lives of larger
U.S. Navy amphibious ships—a difference that could reduce the LAW’s construction cost for a
ship of its type and size.
Figure 1, Figure 2, Figure 3, and Figure 4 show published artist’s renderings of one notional
design for a LAW-like ship. The notional design shown has a length of about 70 meters (i.e.,
about 230 feet), a draft of less than 12 feet, and 600 square meters (i.e., about 6,458 square feet)
of deck space.24 The Navy’s eventual preferred design for the LAW might or might not look like
this design.
Procurement Schedule
The Navy envisions procuring a total of 28 LAWs over the four-year period FY2023-FY2026 in
annual quantities of 3, 6, 10, and 9. These ships do not appear in the Navy’s FY2021 five-year
(FY2021-FY2025) shipbuilding plan, but they could appear in the Navy’s FY2022 five-year
(FY2022-FY2026) shipbuilding plan, which the Navy would submit to Congress in 2021 as part
of its FY2022 budget submission.

21 Source: CRS analysis based on actual (LHA and LPD-17) and potential (LAW) lengths, beams, and drafts.
22 As noted in footnote 3, a well deck is a large, covered, garage-like space in the stern of the ship. It can be flooded
with water so that landing craft can leave or return to the ship. Access to the well deck is protected by a large stern gate
that is somewhat like a garage door.
23 Due to the density of water, fuel consumption for moving monohull ships through the water tends to increase steeply
for speeds above 14 to 16 knots.
24 Source: “Stern Landing Vessel (SLV) vs Conventional Landing Craft” (video), posted on YouTube January 10,
2018, by Sea Transport Solutions, a naval architecture, consulting, surveying, and project-management firm, and
accessed May 15, 2020, at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7uUSJx-8fSc. See also “Stern Landing Vessel (SLV) vs
Conventional Landing Craft – Updated” (video), posted on YouTube on April 28, 2019, by Sea Transport Solutions,
and accessed May 15, 2020, at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qnfVxP67w_Y.
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Navy Light Amphibious Warship (LAW) Program: Background and Issues for Congress

Figure 1. Notional Design for a LAW-Like Ship
Artist’s rendering

Source: Il ustration accompanying Megan Eckstein, “Navy Researching New Class of Medium Amphibious Ship,
New Logistics Ships,” USNI News, February 20, 2020. The article credits the image to Sea Transport Solutions, a
naval architecture, consulting, surveying, and project-management firm.
Figure 2. Notional Design for a LAW-Like Ship
Artist’s rendering

Source: Il ustration accompanying David Axe, “This Weird Little Ship Could Be the Future of Amphibious
Warfare,” National Interest, February 24, 2020. The article credits the image to Sea Transport Solutions, a naval
architecture, consulting, surveying, and project-management firm.
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Navy Light Amphibious Warship (LAW) Program: Background and Issues for Congress

Figure 3. Notional Design for a LAW-Like Ship
Artist’s rendering

Source: Il ustration accompanying Joseph Trevithick, “Navy Wants To Buy 30 New Light Amphibious Warships
To Support Radical Shift In Marine Ops,” The Drive, May 5, 2020.
Figure 4. Notional Design for a LAW-Like Ship
Artist’s rendering

Source: Il ustration accompanying Megan Eckstein, “Hudson Recommends 581 Ships, New Class of Corvette as
Part of Input to Pentagon Fleet Plan,” USNI News, September 30, 2020. The caption to the il ustration credits it
to Sea Transport Solutions, a naval architecture, consulting, surveying, and project-management firm.
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link to page 10 Navy Light Amphibious Warship (LAW) Program: Background and Issues for Congress

Procurement Cost
The Navy states that it wants the LAW’s unit procurement cost to be “several digit millions not
triple digit millions,” a phrase that might be interpreted to mean a unit procurement cost of less
than $100 million, or perhaps one that is closer to $100 million than to several hundred million
dollars. By way of comparison, the Navy’s most recently procured LHA-type amphibious ship,
which was procured in FY2017, has an estimated unit procurement cost in the Navy’s FY2021
budget submission of about $3.8 billion, and LPD-17 Flight II amphibious ships being procured
by the Navy have unit procurement costs of about $1.8 billion to $2.0 billion.
As additional comparisons, the Navy’s Ship-to-Shore Connectors (SSCs)—its new air-cushioned
landing craft—are about 92 feet long and have a unit procurement cost of roughly $65 million,
the Coast Guard’s new Fast Response Cutters (FRCs) are 154 feet long and have a unit
procurement cost of about $65 million, and the Navy’s new TATS towing, salvage, and rescue
ships are 263 feet long and have a unit procurement cost of about $80 million.
Potential Builders
The LAW as outlined by the Navy is small enough that it could be built by any of several U.S.
shipyards. The Navy states that in response to an initial request for information (RFI) about the
LAW, it received responses from 13 firms, including nine shipyards.
Acquisition Strategy
The Navy wants to award contracts to multiple firms for conducting industry studies that will
help inform the Navy’s understanding of potential cost-capability tradeoffs in the design of the
ship. Following that, the Navy wants to award contracts to multiple firms for developing
preliminary designs for the ship. From those preliminary designs, the Navy would then choose its
preferred design and builder. The Navy’s baseline preference is to have a single shipyard build all
28 to 30 ships, but the Navy is open to having them built in multiple yards to the same design if
doing so could permit the program to be implemented more quickly and/or less expensively.25
An August 27, 2020, press report states:

25 The Q&A document from the Navy’s April 9, 2020, industry day on the LAW program (see footnote 19) states:
Q [from industry]: Once [the industry] studies are done, what is the likelihood of [the Navy
making] multiple [contract] awards [for the next stage]?
A [from Navy]: When the [industry] studies are done, there will be multiple [contract] awards for
preliminary design [work]. Then [the Navy will] down select for a [preferred] prototype. [There is]
No plan for [building the ships at] multiple [ship]yards and [building them to multiple] designs like
[the] LCS [Littoral Combat Ship program]. It’s too hard of a logistics tail [to provide lifecycle
support for ships built to multiple designs]. But options are open if it is cheaper/faster.
Q [from industry]: Do you envision something similar to LCS variance [sic: variants]? Multiple
yards and designs?
A [from Navy]: No, it involves too much logistics and O&S [operation and support costs]. This
drives overall costs initially [i.e., locks higher life-cycle support costs into the program from the
outset of the program] and we’re not trying to go down that path. As we’ve said before, if studies
tell us we are wrong, if it’s affordable and fields faster, then we won’t ignore it. The data and cost
drivers will help us decide. The Government wants to field [the ships] as rapidly as possible, and
we believe that using multiple yards is not the best and most affordable path.
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The Navy and Marine Corps’ new Light Amphibious Warship program is already in
industry studies, with the service pushing ahead as quickly as possible in an
acknowledgement that they’re already behind in their transformation of the force.
Maj. Gen. Tracy King, the director of expeditionary warfare on the chief of naval
operations’ staff (OPNAV N95), said today that LAW was perhaps the most important
investment the Marine Corps was making to optimize itself for expeditionary advance base
operations (EABO).
“Having these LAWs out there as an extension of the fleet, under the watchful eye of our
Navy, engaging with our partners and allies, building partner capacity, is what I think we
need to be doing right now. I think we’re late to need with building the Light Amphibious
Warship, which is why we’re trying to go so quickly,” he said, saying that N95 was copying
the surface warfare directorate’s playbook from the frigate program, which moved quickly
from requirements-development to design to getting under contract thanks to the use of
mature technology and designs from industry.26
An October 6, 2020, press report states that the Navy in July 2020 awarded contracts for LAW
concept design studies to 15 firms, with the studies due in November 2020. The studies
reportedly are intended to help inform concepts of operation, technical risk and cost estimates for
the LAW program, in support of a planned lead-ship contract award in FY2022. The press report
stated:
Because the LAW program is a new [program] start, any formal solicitation to launch the
program is hamstrung until an FY-21 defense appropriations bill is enacted….
The Navy's FY-21 budget request includes a $30 million request for a “Next Generation
Medium Amphibious Ship,” a sum that, if included in a final appropriations law, is
intended to support award of a preliminary design contract and development of required
acquisition, logistics and test documentation needed to set the stage for a FY-22 detail
design and construction contract award.
According to the press report, the 15 companies awarded contracts include Austal USE, BMT
Designers, Bollinger Shipyards, Crescere Marine Engineering, Damen, Hyak Marine,
Independent Maritime Assessment Associates, Nichols Brothers Boat Builders, Sea Transport,
Serco, St John Shipbuilding, Swiftships, Technology Associates, Thoma-Sea, and VT Halter
Marine.27
FY2021 Funding
The Navy’s proposed FY2021 budget requests $30 million in research and development funding
for initial industry studies and concept design work on the ship. The funding is requested in
Project 4044 (Next Generation Medium Amphibious Ship) of PE (Program Element) 0603563N
(Ship Concept Advanced Design), which is line number 45 in the Navy’s FY2021 research and
development account. Of the $30 million requested, $21.5 million is requested for industry
studies and concept design work, which would sufficient to support the award of several contracts
with values of up to perhaps $3 million each.28

26 Megan Eckstein, “Marines Already In Industry Studies for Light Amphibious Warship, In Bid to Field Them
ASAP,” USNI News, August 27 (updated August 28), 2020. See also Rich Abott, “Marine Corps In Industry Studies
For Light Amphibious Warship, Trying To Move Quickly,” Defense Daily, August 28, 2020.
27 Jason Sherman and Aidan Quigley, “Navy Awaits 15 Light Amphibious Warship ‘Concept Designs’ to Support
Program Launch in FY-21,” Inside Defense, October 6, 2020.
28 The remainder of the $30 million requested is proposed for use as follows: $5 million for program management and
engineering support, $2.5 million for studies on specialized topics, and $1 million for development of an indicative
design, meaning a notional in-house Navy design that the Navy would use in evaluating shipbuilder-developed designs.
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Issues for Congress
The LAW program poses a number of potential oversight matters for Congress, including those
discussed briefly in the sections below.
EABO Operational Concept
One potential oversight issue for Congress concerns the merits of the EABO operational concept
that the LAW is intended to help Marine Corps implement. Debate on the merits of the EABO
concept concerns issues such as
 whether the concept is focused too exclusively on potential conflict scenarios
with China at the expense of other kinds of potential Marine Corps missions;
 the ability of Marine forces to gain access to the islands from which they would
operate;
 the ability to resupply Marine forces that are operating on the islands;
 the survivability of Marine forces on the islands and in surrounding waters;
 how much of a contribution the envisioned operations by Marine forces would
make in contributing to overall U.S. sea-denial operations; and
 potential alternative ways of using the funding and personnel that would be
needed to implement EABO.29

29 For a CRS report on the proposed redesign of the Marine Corps to support new operational concepts such as EABO,
see CRS Insight IN11281, New U.S. Marine Corps Force Design Initiatives, by Andrew Feickert.
For Marine Corps statements about the redesign of the Marine Corps and EABO, see U.S. Marine Corps,
Commandant’s Planning Guidance, 38th Commandant of the Marine Corps, undated, released July 2019, 23 pp.; U.S.
Marine Corps, Force Design 2030, March 2020, 13 pp.; David H. Berger, “The Case for Change,” Marine Corps
Gazette
, June 2020: 8-12. See also Megan Eckstein, “Marines Testing Regiment at Heart of Emerging Island-Hopping
Future,” USNI News, June 4 (updated June 12), 2020; Megan Eckstein, “Marines Look to Two New Ship Classes to
Define Future of Amphibious Operations,” USNI News, June 4 (updated June 12), 2020.
For press articles discussing the proposed redesign of the Marine Corps to support new operational concepts such as
EABO, see Michael Fabey, “Template For Change: Marine Corps’ New Vision Sets A Headmark For U.S. Navy
Transformation,” Jane’s Navy International, September 9, 2020; Chris “Junior” Cannon, “The Commandant Needs
Our Help: Accelerating Marine Corps Force Development,” Center for International Maritime Security (CIMSEC),
August 25, 2020; Mallory Shelbourne, “Panel: New Focus on China Fight Could Rob Marine Corps of Versatility,”
USNI News, July 30, 2020; Tanner Greer, “The Tip of the American Military Spear Is Being Blunted,” Foreign Policy,
July 6, 2020; Ben Wan Beng Ho, “Shortfalls in the Marine Corps’ EABO Concept,” U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings,
July 2020; J. Noel Williams, “Force Design,” Marine Corps Gazette, July 2020; Dakota Wood, “The Marines: To
Boldly Go Where the Corps Has Gone Before,” Washington Times, June 24, 2020; Paul McLeary, “In War, Chinese
Shipyards Could Outpace US in Replacing Losses; Marine Commandant,” Breaking Defense, June 17, 2020; Dakota
Wood, The U.S. Marine Corps: A Service in Transition, Heritage Foundation, June 216, 2020, 18 pp.; David B. Larter,
“In His Fight to Change the Corps, America’s Top Marine Takes Friendly Fire,” Defense News, June 11, 2020; Gina
Harkins, “Marine 3-Star Hits Back at Claims that Corps' Future Design Is Too China-Focused,” Military.com, June 2,
2020; Frank G. Hoffman, “Still First to Fight?” Marine Corps Gazette, June 2020; Gary Anderson, “Addressing the
Chinese Threat in the Indo-Pacific Area,” Washington Times, May 25, 2020; Matthew Fay and Michael A. Hunzeker,
“No Sure Victory: The Marines New Force Design Plan and the Politics of Implementation,” War on the Rocks, May
14, 2020; Jim Webb, “The Future of the U.S. Marine Corps,” National Interest, May 8, 2020; Grant Newsham, “US
Marines Revamp Amid China’s Growing Threat,” Asia Times, May 7, 2020; Jeff Cummings, Scott Cuomo, Olivia A.
Garard, and Noah Spataro, “Getting the Context of Marine Corps Reform Right,” War on the Rocks, May 1, 2020;
Benjamin Jensen, “The Rest of the Story: Evaluating the U.S. Marine Corps Force Design 2030,” War on the Rocks,
April 27, 2020; T. X. Hammes, “Building a Marine Corps for Every Contingency, Clime, and Place,” War on the
Rocks
, April 15, 2020; Mark F. Cancian, “The Marine Corps’ Radical Shift toward China,” Center for Strategic and
International Studies (CSIS), March 25, 2020.
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Navy Light Amphibious Warship (LAW) Program: Background and Issues for Congress

Potential oversight questions for Congress include, What are the potential benefits, costs, and
risks of the EABO concept? What work have the Navy and Marine Corps done in terms of
analyses and war games to develop and test the concept? Would EABO be more cost effective to
implement than other potential uses of the funding and personnel?
LAWs Within Overall Navy Fleet Architecture
Another potential oversight issue for Congress concerns how the LAW would fit into the Navy’s
overall future fleet architecture, particularly since only partial details are currently available on
the Navy’s new Battle Force 2045 plan. Potential oversight questions for Congress include: What
is the analytical basis for the envisioned procurement quantity of 28 to 30 LAWs? How well can
the cost-effectiveness of a force of 28 to 30 LAWs be assessed if the remainder of the Navy’s
future fleet architecture is not yet fully known?
Preliminary Cost Target
Another potential oversight issue for Congress concerns the Navy’s preliminary procurement cost
target for the LAW. Potential oversight questions for Congress include the following: Does the
Navy’s desire for the ship to have a unit procurement cost of “several digit millions not triple
digit millions” mean a unit procurement cost of less than $100 million, or one that is closer to
$100 million than to several hundred million dollars? Is the Navy’s preliminary unit procurement
cost target reasonable, given the features the Navy wants the ship to have? As the LAW program
proceeds, will the operational requirements (and thus cost) of the LAW increase? In connection
questions such as these, a September 21, 2020, press report states:
The U.S. Marine Corps is moving as fast as it can to field a new class of light amphibious
warship, but it remains unclear what it will do, where it will be based or what capabilities
it will bring to the fight.
The idea behind the ship is to take a commercial design or adapt a historic design to make
a vessel capable of accommodating up to 40 sailors and at least 75 Marines to transport
Marine kit over a range of about 3,500 nautical miles, according to a recent industry day
presentation.
While the presentation noted that the ship should have few tailored Navy requirements,
that also creates a problem: If the Navy is going to pay tens of millions to develop, build,
crew and operate them, should it not provide some additional value to the fleet [beyond its
currently envisioned role]?
Analysts, experts and sources with knowledge of internal discussions who spoke to
Defense News say the answer to that question is a source of friction inside the Pentagon….
When asked whether the ship should contribute to a more distributed sensor architecture to
align with the Navy’s desire to be more spread out over a large area during a fight, [he
chief of naval operations' director of expeditionary warfare, Maj. Gen. Tracy King]
answered in the affirmative.
"[But] I really see it benefiting from [that architecture] more,” he said. “We need to build
an affordable ship that can get after the ability to do maritime campaigning in the littorals.”
The unstated implication appeared to be that if the ship is loaded up with sensors and
requirements, it will slow down the process and increase the cost. Analysts who spoke to
Defense News agreed with that, saying the Navy is likely trying to put more systems on
the platform that will make it more complex and more expensive….
“The hardest part is going to be appetite suppression, especially on the part of the Navy,”
said Dakota Wood, a retired Marine officer and analyst with The Heritage Foundation.
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Navy Light Amphibious Warship (LAW) Program: Background and Issues for Congress

"This is what we saw in the littoral combat ship LCS]:30 It started out as a very light, near-
shore, small and inexpensive street fighter. And then people started adding on
requirements. You had ballooning costs, increasing complexity of the platform, and you
get into all kinds of problems….
[Jerry Hendrix, a retired Navy captain and analyst with the Telemus Group] acknowledged
that the Navy has good reason to want the light amphibious warship to have more
capability, but added that the Corps is more interested in something simple than something
costly and elaborate.
“What that does,” Hendrix said, “is drive up unit cost and drive down the numbers that can
be purchased.”31
Potential Alternative of Adapting Existing Army LSVs
Another potential issue for Congress is whether at least some portion of the operational
requirements for the LAW program could be met cost effectively met by adapting existing U.S.
military ships rather than building new LAWs. Some observers, for example, argue that at least
some portion of the operational requirements for the LAW program could be met more cost-
effectively by transferring existing Army watercraft known as Logistics Support Vessels (LSVs)
(Figure 5) to the Navy and adapting these LSVs to the LAW mission.
Figure 5. Besson-Class Logistics Support Vessel (LSV)

Source: Photograph accompanying Walker D. Mil s and Joseph Hanacek, “The US Navy and Marine Corps
Should Acquire Army Watercraft,” Defense News, June 22, 2020. The caption to the photograph credits the
photograph to the U.S. Navy and states: “U.S. Navy sailors conduct a simulated disaster relief supply offload from
a General Frank S. Besson-class logistics support vessel at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam on July 10, 2016.”

30 For more on the LCS program, see CRS Report RL33741, Navy Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) Program: Background
and Issues for Congress
, by Ronald O'Rourke.
31 David B. Larter, “US Marines Wants to Move Fast on a Light Amphibious Warship. But What is It?” Defense News,
September 21, 2020.
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A June 22, 2020, opinion piece discussing this idea states:
The Navy intends to acquire up to 30 new light amphibious warships, or LAW, to support
new Marine Corps requirements.… Rather than accepting a new amphibious design built
from the ground up, however, decision-makers should take advantage of the fact that many
key requirements of the new vessels are very similar to the capabilities of vessels operated
by U.S. Army Transportation Command.
The Navy and Marine Corps should delay any new construction and immediately acquire
some of these existing vessels to drive experimentation and better inform their
requirements for the LAW program….
U.S. Army Transportation Command has over 100 vessels, and dozens have similar
capabilities to those required of the LAW. The Army’s LCU-2000s, also called the
Runnymede-class large landing crafts, are smaller, with roughly half of the cargo space
designed for the LAW and slightly slower, but they boast nearly double the range. The
Runnymede-class vessels have nearly 4,000 square feet of cargo space and can travel 6,500
miles when loaded and at 12 knots; and they can unload at the beach with their bow ramp.
The Army’s General Frank S. Besson-class logistics support vessels are larger than the
future LAW, at 273 feet in length but can claim 10,500 square feet of cargo space and a
6,500-mile range loaded to match the LCU-2000. These vessels also have both a bow and
stern ramp for roll-on/roll-off capability at the beach or ship-to-ship docking at sea. The
version built for the Phillipine military also has a helipad.
Army Transportation Command has 32 Runnymede-class and eight General Frank S.
Besson-class vessels in service. Mostly built in the 1990s, both classes of vessel have many
years left in their life expectancy and more than meet the Navy’s 10-year life expectancy
for the LAW.
These vessels are operable today and could be transferred from the Army to the Navy or
Marine Corps tomorrow. In fact, the Army was attempting to divest itself of these
watercraft less than a year ago, which underscores the importance of this opportunity even
further. Congress is firmly set against the Army getting rid of valuable, seaworthy vessels
and has quashed all of the Army’s efforts to do so thus far, but transferring this equipment
to the Navy is a reasonable course of action that should satisfy all parties involved….
By acquiring a watercraft that meets most of their requirements from the Army, the Navy
and Marine Corps simultaneously fill current capability gaps and obtain an invaluable
series of assets they can use to support the evaluation and experimentation of new designs
and concepts. This will allow Navy and Marine leaders to give their units the maximum
amount of time to evaluate and experiment with new designs to get a better idea of what
they need both in future amphibious craft as well as operational and support equipment….
Often overlooked, the availability of surplus vessels is absolutely critical to the process of
developing new technologies, developing the tactics to employ them, conducting training,
and providing decision-makers the requisite capacity to remain flexible in the face of
unexpected challenges….
[The Navy and Marine Corps have] long been in need of a boost in their amphibious
capabilities so as to be better positioned to meet the demands of today and prepare for the
challenges of tomorrow, and taking possession of the Army’s Runnymede- and Frank S.
Benson-class vessels is a solution on a silver platter.32
Potential questions for Congress include the following:

32 Walker D. Mills and Joseph Hanacek, “The US Navy and Marine Corps Should Acquire Army Watercraft,” Defense
News
, June 22, 2020.
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 How many of these watercraft would be available for transfer to the Navy for use
in meeting the operational requirements of the LAW program?
 How do the capabilities of these watercraft compare with those required for the
LAW?
 Given the number of these watercraft that would be available for transfer to the
Navy, and the operational capabilities of these watercraft, what portion of the
LAW program’s operational requirements could transferred watercraft meet?
How many LAWs, if any, would still need to be built to fully or substantially
meet the LAW program’s operational requirements?
 How do the acquisition and operation and support (O&S) costs of these
watercraft compare to the estimated acquisition and O&S costs of the LAWs they
would replace?
 Taking into account capabilities, acquisition costs, and O&S costs, how does the
cost effectiveness of an approach involving the transfer of these watercraft
compare to that of the Navy’s baseline approach of meeting the LAW program’s
requirements through the acquisition of 28 to 30 new LAWs?
 What would be the potential industrial-base implications of using transferred
watercraft to meet at least some portion of the LAW program’s operational
needs?
Industrial-Base Implications
Another potential oversight issue for Congress concerns the potential industrial-base implications
of the LAW program. In recent years, all Navy amphibious ships have been built by the Ingalls
shipyard of Pascagoula, MS, a part of Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII/Ingalls). As noted
earlier, LAWs could be built by multiple U.S. shipyards,33 and nine shipyards have expressed
interest in the LAW program. Potential oversight questions for Congress include, What
implications might the LAW program have for the distribution of Navy shipbuilding work among
U.S. shipyards? How many jobs would the LAW program create at the shipyard that builds the
ships, at associated supplier firms, and indirectly in surrounding communities? In a situation of
finite defense resources, what impact, if any, would funding the procurement of LAWs have on
funding available for procuring other types of amphibious ships, and thus on workloads and
employment levels at HII/Ingalls, its associated supplier firms, and their surrounding
communities?34

33 10 U.S.C. §8679 requires that, subject to a presidential waiver for the national security interest, “no vessel to be
constructed for any of the armed forces, and no major component of the hull or superstructure of any such vessel, may
be constructed in a foreign shipyard.” In addition, the paragraph in the annual DOD appropriations act that makes
appropriations for the Navy’s shipbuilding account (the Shipbuilding and Conversion, Navy account) typically contains
these provisos: “ … Provided further, That none of the funds provided under this heading for the construction or
conversion of any naval vessel to be constructed in shipyards in the United States shall be expended in foreign facilities
for the construction of major components of such vessel: Provided further, That none of the funds provided under this
heading shall be used for the construction of any naval vessel in foreign shipyards….”
34 Two observers argue that shifting the Navy to a fleet architecture that includes a larger proportion of smaller ships
would have beneficial impacts on U.S. shipbuilding industry’s ability to support Navy shipbuilding needs. See Bryan
Clark and Timothy A. Walton, “Shipbuilding Suppliers Need More Than Market Forces to Stay Afloat,” Defense News,
May 20, 2020.
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Legislative Activity for FY2021
Summary of Congressional Action on FY2021 Funding Request
Table 1
summarizes congressional action on the FY2021 procurement funding request for the
LAW program.
Table 1. Congressional Action on FY2021 Procurement Funding Request
Millions of dollars, rounded to nearest tenth

Authorization
Appropriation

Request
HASC
SASC
Conf.
HAC
SAC
Conf.
Research and development
30.0
30.0
0.0

20.0


Source: Table prepared by CRS based on Navy’s FY2021 budget submission, committee and conference
reports, and explanatory statements on FY2021 National Defense Authorization Act and FY2021 DOD
Appropriations Act. The funding is requested in Project 4044 (Next Generation Medium Amphibious Ship) of PE
(Program Element) 0603563N (Ship Concept Advanced Design), which is line number 45 in the Navy‘s FY2021
research and development account.
Notes: HASC is House Armed Services Committee; SASC is Senate Armed Services Committee; HAC is
House Appropriations Committee; SAC is Senate Appropriations Committee; Conf. is conference agreement.
FY2021 National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 6395/S. 4049)
House
The House Armed Services Committee, in its report (H.Rept. 116-442 of July 9, 2020) on H.R.
6395, recommended the funding level shown in the HASC column of Table 1.
H.Rept. 116-442 states:
Utilization of Smaller Vessels in Indo-Pacific Area of Operations
The committee remains concerned that the Navy has yet to provide an updated shipbuilding
plan as required by section 231 of title 10, United States Code, or a briefing on the updated
Integrated Force Structure Assessment. Without the requisite information, the committee
is unable to properly assess whether vessels smaller than 200 meters in length may have a
forward deployed mission set, such as supporting Expeditionary Advanced Base
Operations. Therefore, the committee directs the Chief of Naval Operations to provide a
briefing to the House Committee on Armed Services not later than February 1, 2021, on
the feasibility of utilizing smaller vessels in the Indo-Pacific to patrol coastal areas and
enhance presence in a contested environment. (Page 216)
Section 1028 of H.R. 6395 as reported by the committee states:
SEC. 1028. REPORT ON IMPLEMENTATION OF COMMANDANT’S PLANNING
GUIDANCE.
(a) IN GENERAL.—Not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the
Secretary of Defense shall submit to the congressional defense committees a report on the
implementation of the Commandant’s Planning Guidance. Such report shall include a
detailed description of each of the following:
(1) The specific number and type of manned littoral ships required to execute such
Guidance.
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(2) The role of long-range unmanned surface vessels in the execution of such Guidance.
(3) How platforms referred to in paragraphs (1) and (2) account for and interact with
ground-based missiles fielded by teams of Marines deployed throughout the Indo-Pacific
region.
(4) The integrated naval command and control architecture required to support the
platforms referred to in paragraphs (1) and (2);
(5) The projected cost and any additional resources required to deliver the platforms
referred to in paragraph (1) and (2) by not later than five years after the date of the
enactment of this Act.
(b) FORM OF REPORT.—The report required under this section shall be submitted in
unclassified form, but may contain a classified annex. The unclassified report shall be made
publicly available.
Senate
The Senate Armed Services Committee, in its report (S.Rept. 116-236 of June 24, 2020) on S.
4049, recommended the funding level shown in the SASC column of Table 1. The recommended
reduction of $30.0 (the entire requested amount) is for the funds being “early to need.” (Page 505)
Regarding this funding recommendation, S.Rept. 116-236 states (emphasis added):
Ship concept advanced design
The budget request included $21.5 billion in Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation
(RDT&E), Navy, of which $126.4 million was for PE 63563N ship concept advanced
design.
The committee lacks sufficient clarity on the capability requirements to support the
following ship design efforts: Future Surface Combatant (project 2196, $19.1 million),
next generation medium amphibious ship (project 4044, $30.0 million), and next
generation medium logistics ship (project 4045, $30.0 million). (Pages 98-99)
FY2021 DOD Appropriations Act (H.R. 7617)
House
The House Appropriations Committee, in its report (H.Rept. 116-453 of July 16, 2020) on H.R.
7617, recommended the funding level shown in the HAC column of Table 1. The recommended
reduction of $10.0 million is for “Next generation medium amphibious ship excess to need.”
(Page 266)
Section 8129 of H.R. 7617 as reported by the committee states:
Sec. 8129. None of the funds provided in this Act for requirements development,
performance specification development, concept design and development, ship
configuration development, systems engineering, naval architecture, marine engineering,
operations research analysis, industry studies, preliminary design, development of the
Detailed Design and Construction Request for Proposals solicitation package, or related
activities for the AS(X) Submarine Tender, T-ARC(X) Cable Laying and Repair Ship, T-
AGOS(X) Oceanographic Surveillance Ship, Light Amphibious Warship, Next Generation
Medium Amphibious Ship, or Next Generation Medium Logistics Ship may be used to
award a new contract for such activities unless these contracts include specifications that
all hull, mechanical, and electrical components are manufactured in the United States.
Regarding Section 8129 and certain other provisions, H.Rept. 116-453 states:
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DOMESTIC MANUFACTURING REQUIREMENTS FOR NAVY SHIPBUILDING
The Committee consistently has expressed its concern with the Department of the Navy
sourcing surface ship components from foreign industry partners rather than promoting a
robust domestic industrial base. To address these concerns, the Committee retains several
provisions from fiscal year 2020 and a new provision that expands the domestic
manufacturing requirement for several classes of ships under development. Absent
stringent contract requirements in these future surface ship classes, the Committee lacks
confidence that the Navy will make the necessary decisions and provide the required
resources to support a robust domestic industrial base. (Page 13)


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Appendix. Proposed Change in Amphibious-Ship
Force Architecture
This appendix presents excerpts from the July 2019 Commandant’s Planning Guidance document
that provide additional background information on the proposed change in the amphibious-ship
force architecture and the operational rationale for the proposed change.
Regarding the shift to a new amphibious-ship force architecture, the Commandant’s Planning
Guidance
states in part (emphasis as in the original):
Our Nation’s ability to project power and influence beyond its shores is increasingly
challenged by long-range precision fires; expanding air, surface, and subsurface threats;
and the continued degradation of our amphibious and auxiliary ship readiness. The ability
to project and maneuver from strategic distances will likely be detected and contested from
the point of embarkation during a major contingency. Our naval expeditionary forces must
possess a variety of deployment options, including L-class [amphibious ships] and E-class
[expeditionary ships] ships, but also increasingly look to other available options such as
unmanned platforms, stern landing vessels, other ocean-going connectors, and smaller
more lethal and more risk-worthy platforms. We must continue to seek the affordable
and plentiful at the expense of the exquisite and few when conceiving of the future
amphibious portion of the fleet.

We must also explore new options, such as inter-theater connectors and commercially
available ships and craft that are smaller and less expensive, thereby increasing the
affordability and allowing acquisition at a greater quantity. We recognize that we must
distribute our forces ashore given the growth of adversary precision strike capabilities, so
it would be illogical to continue to concentrate our forces on a few large ships. The
adversary will quickly recognize that striking while concentrated (aboard ship) is the
preferred option. We need to change this calculus with a new fleet design of smaller, more
lethal, and more risk-worthy platforms. We must be fully integrated with the Navy to
develop a vision and a new fleet architecture that can be successful against our peer
adversaries while also maintaining affordability. To achieve this difficult task, the Navy
and Marine Corps must ensure larger surface combatants possess mission agility across sea
control, littoral, and amphibious operations, while we concurrently expand the quantity of
more specialized manned and unmanned platforms….
We will no longer use a “2.0 MEB requirement” as the foundation for our arguments
regarding amphibious ship building, to determine the requisite capacity of vehicles
or other capabilities, or as pertains to the Maritime Prepositioning Force. We will no
longer reference the 38-ship requirement memo from 2009, or the 2016 Force
Structure Assessment, as the basis for our arguments and force structure
justifications.
The ongoing 2019 Force Structure Assessment will inform the amphibious
requirements based upon this guidance. The global options for amphibs [types of
amphibious ships] include many more options than simply LHAs, LPDs, and LSDs. I will
work closely with the Secretary of the Navy and Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) to
ensure there are adequate numbers of the right types of ships, with the right capabilities, to
meet national requirements.
I do not believe joint forcible entry operations (JFEO) are irrelevant or an operational
anachronism; however, we must acknowledge that different approaches are required given
the proliferation of anti-access/area denial (A2AD) threat capabilities in mutually contested
spaces. Visions of a massed naval armada nine nautical miles off-shore in the South China
Sea preparing to launch the landing force in swarms of ACVs [amphibious combat
vehicles], LCUs [utility landing craft], and LCACs [air-cushioned landing craft] are
impractical and unreasonable. We must accept the realities created by the proliferation of
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precision long-range fires, mines, and other smart-weapons, and seek innovative ways to
overcome those threat capabilities. I encourage experimentation with lethal long-range
unmanned systems capable of traveling 200 nautical miles, penetrating into the adversary
enemy threat ring, and crossing the shoreline—causing the adversary to allocate resources
to eliminate the threat, create dilemmas, and further create opportunities for fleet maneuver.
We cannot wait to identify solutions to our mine countermeasure needs, and must make
this a priority for our future force development efforts….
Over the coming months, we will release a new concept in support of the Navy’s
Distributed Maritime Operations (DMO) Concept and the NDS called – Stand-in Forces.
The Stand-in Forces concept is designed to restore the strategic initiative to naval forces
and empower our allies and partners to successfully confront regional hegemons that
infringe on their territorial boundaries and interests. Stand-in Forces are designed to
generate technically disruptive, tactical stand-in engagements that confront aggressor
naval forces with an array of low signature, affordable, and risk-worthy platforms
and payloads.
Stand-in forces take advantage of the relative strength of the contemporary
defense and rapidly-emerging new technologies to create an integrated maritime defense
that is optimized to operate in close and confined seas in defiance of adversary long-range
precision “stand-off capabilities.”
Creating new capabilities that intentionally initiate stand-in engagements is a disruptive
“button hook” in force development that runs counter to the action that our adversaries
anticipate. Rather than heavily investing in expensive and exquisite capabilities that
regional aggressors have optimized their forces to target, naval forces will persist forward
with many smaller, low signature, affordable platforms that can economically host a dense
array of lethal and nonlethal payloads.
By exploiting the technical revolution in autonomy, advanced manufacturing, and artificial
intelligence, the naval forces can create many new risk-worthy unmanned and minimally-
manned platforms that can be employed in stand-in engagements to create tactical
dilemmas that adversaries will confront when attacking our allies and forces forward.35
Regarding EABO, the Commandant’s Planning Guidance states the following (emphasis as in the
original):
The 2016 Marine Corps Operating Concept (MOC) predates the current set of national
strategy and guidance documents, but it was prescient in many ways. It directed partnering
with the Navy to develop two concepts, Littoral Operations in a Contested Environment
(LOCE) and Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations (EABO) that nest exceptionally
well with the current strategic guidance. It is time to move beyond the MOC itself,
however, and partner with the Navy to complement LOCE and EABO with classified,
threat-specific operating concepts that describe how naval forces will conduct the range of
missions articulated in our strategic guidance….


35 U.S. Marine Corps, Commandant’s Planning Guidance, 38th Commandant of the Marine Corps, undated, released
July 2019, pp. 4-5, 10.
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EABO complement the Navy’s Distributed Maritime Operations Concept and will
inform how we approach missions against peer adversaries
….
EABO are driven by the aforementioned adversary deployment of long-range precision
fires designed to support a strategy of “counter-intervention” directed against U.S. and
coalition forces. EABO, as an operational concept, enables the naval force to persist
forward within the arc of adversary long-range precision fires to support our treaty partners
with combat credible forces on a much more resilient and difficult to target forward basing
infrastructure. EABO are designed to restore force resiliency and enable the persistent
naval forward presence that has long been the hallmark of naval forces. Most significantly,
EABO reverse the cost imposition that determined adversaries seek to impose on the joint
force. EABO guide an apt and appropriate adjustment in future naval force development
to obviate the significant investment our adversaries have made in long-range precision
fires. Potential adversaries intend to target our forward fixed and vulnerable bases, as well
as deep water ports, long runways, large signature platforms, and ships. By developing a
new expeditionary naval force structure that is not dependent on concentrated, vulnerable,
and expensive forward infrastructure and platforms, we will frustrate enemy efforts to
separate U.S. Forces from our allies and interests. EABO enable naval forces to partner
and persist forward to control and deny contested areas where legacy naval forces cannot
be prudently employed without accepting disproportionate risk….
In February of 2019, the Commandant and Chief of Naval Operations co-signed the
concept for EABO. The ideas contained in this document are foundational to our future
force development efforts and are applicable in multiple scenarios.36


Author Information

Ronald O'Rourke

Specialist in Naval Affairs



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36 U.S. Marine Corps, Commandant’s Planning Guidance, 38th Commandant of the Marine Corps, undated, released
July 2019, pp. 9, 11, 19. See also Jim Lacey, “The ‘Dumbest Concept Ever’ Just Might Win Wars,” War on the Rocks,
July 29, 2019; Megan Eckstein, “How to Seize Islands, Set Up a Forward Refueling Point: Marine Corps Recipes for
Expeditionary Operations,” USNI News, September 13, 2019.
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