U.S. Senator Herb Kohl questioned Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus about the future of the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) program during a Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on the Navy's budget today. Kohl worked to help Marinette Marine, part of a team with Lockheed Martin, win a Navy contract to build 10 of the new small warships over five years. The Navy plans to purchase a total of 55 Littoral Combat Ships over the long term, to replace an aging fleet of ships, but Kohl raised concerns at the hearing that the Navy's five year budget projection calls for cutting two ships after the current contract is completed.
"Would you agree, Mr. Secretary, that if Congress were to delay the Navy's plans to bring these ships into the fleet, that the Navy's effectiveness would be hurt? We understand that the LCS is going to replace an aging fleet of frigates and minesweepers, and that Navy readiness will suffer without them. Is that true, and what will happen if the LCS is delayed?" Kohl asked Secretary Mabus during today's hearing.
Secretary Mabus assured Kohl that the Navy is not planning to cut the two additional ships, but the timeline to build them has shifted out. The Secretary called the LCS one of the backbones of their fleet today and in the future, citing its capability to adapt to developing weapons technology.
Marinette Marine bid to construct 10 Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) in competition with Alabama shipbuilder, Austal USA. The Navy awarded both Marinette Marine and Austal USA contracts to produce 10 LCS each over five years. Kohl made a strong case for Marinette Marine's shipbuilding bid with Secretary Mabus, including during hearings in the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, on which Kohl serves. Kohl also frequently met with officials from Marinette Marine and its parent company, Italian ship-builder Fincantieri, along with representatives from Lockheed Martin, to make a strong case to the Navy as officials weighed a decision on the shipbuilding contract.
Marinette Marine estimates that with the current contract they will employ 2,100 workers at the company as part of roughly 5,000 new jobs in northeastern Wisconsin and throughout the state.
It is also projected that $2.6 billion will be injected into the Wisconsin economy over the life of the contract.
At a time when many Navy ships cost at least $1 billion each, the Navy has been trying to build a smaller, more flexible vessel that can work closer to shore. Ultimately, the LCS will likely be less than half that price. The Navy needs the LCS in order to meet its goal of having 300 ships in the fleet so it can quickly protect U.S. interests around the world.