WASHINGTON (Reuters) - (This Jan 13 story corrects position of Marine Corps general and makes clear he speaks for Navy)
The U.S. Navy will insist on competition for the next U.S. amphibious warship despite a decision last year to base the ship on the LPD-17 ship designed by Huntington Ingalls Industries Inc, Marine Corps Major General Robert Walsh said on Tuesday.
Walsh, who is director of the U.S. Navy's Expeditionary Warfare Division, said the U.S. military owned the design for the LPD-17 class of ships and would launch a competition for the new warship program known as LX (R).
"Competition drives down cost," Walsh said after a speech at the annual symposium of the Surface Navy Association. He said competition was also one of the key goals of the Pentagon's Better Buying Power initiative to improve arms acquisitions.
Navy officials had no immediate comment on the expected terms of the competition, which are likely to emerge after the release of the fiscal 2016 budget request.
Huntington Ingalls and General Dynamics Corp are expected to compete to build the ships that would be used to transport Marines to the battlefield. It was not immediately clear which other firms would compete.
The Navy plans to buy a total of 11 new amphibious ships under the LX (R) program, with a goal of procuring the first of the new ships in fiscal 2020.
Beci Brenton, spokeswoman for Huntington Ingalls, said the company applauded the Navy's decision to select the LPD hull form as the basis for LX(R), and said it would reduce costs and risks for the Navy and the shipbuilder.
"With regards to competition, this really is a Navy decision," she said.
(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by David Gregorio and Ken Wills)