(Reuters) - The office of the secretary of defense (OSD) has directed the U.S. Navy to cut its overall buy of the littoral combat ships to 32 ships, foregoing 20 more of the small, fast warships, the Navy Times reported, citing Pentagon sources.
The decision, in a January 6 memo from acting deputy secretary of defense Christine Fox, follows the final 2015 budget guidance from the White House, the newspaper reported on Wednesday. (http://r.reuters.com/haw95v)
"The defense department is not going to discuss a budget that has yet to be presented or decisions that haven't been made," Pentagon spokesman Carl Woog told Reuters.
The Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) program, one of the Pentagon's biggest acquisition programs, includes ships built by Lockheed Martin Corp and Australia's Austal Ltd.
The 52-ship program had come under scrutiny after a spate of technical glitches.
However, supporters of the program have argued that the smaller ships, which require less personnel, offered the Navy the best way to increase the size of its fleet, which is now at historic lows.
"Secretary (Chuck) Hagel has long said he is going to have to make tough choices," said a senior defense official.
"There may yet be alternatives to cutting the LCS program that Secretary Hagel could consider."
It is believed that the OSD's initial guidance in January was to cut the program even further, the Navy Times said.
Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, a strident defender of the LCS program, personally argued to restore at least a portion of the future ship buy, the newspaper reported.
One Navy source said that the decision to end LCS at 32 ships isn't yet a done deal, the Navy Times reported.
(Reporting by Chris Peters in Bangalore; Editing by Supriya Kurane)
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