By Representative Bradley Byrne (AL-1)
Alabama Political Reporter
Last week, the House Armed Services Committee considered the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), legislation that the committee passes every year to authorize funding and set policy for the military. The scope of this legislation is so wide, it typically takes well over 12 hours to complete committee consideration of the bill. Last Wednesday, we worked past midnight to make sure this bill was finished. Of importance to Southwest Alabama, the jurisdiction of this bill includes our Mobile-built Littoral Combat Ship (LCS), which requires authorization by the Armed Services Committee every year to continue supporting the 4,000 jobs represented at Austal. I’m very proud that the committee passed this legislation authorizing construction on four LCS and including complimentary language about the Joint High Speed Vessel (JHSV), boding well for the future of these ships built in Alabama’s First District.
The consideration of this legislation was not without controversy, even in regard to the LCS. Representative Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) offered an amendment that would have blocked all funding to the LCS pending a report from the Pentagon on a follow-on version of the ship, even if the report was late or incomplete. I argued that this amendment could have placed a devastating chokehold on construction of the LCS, unnecessarily slowing the delivery of ships to the Navy and risking the jobs housed here in Southwest Alabama. The amendment was defeated on a bipartisan basis.
Although there were controversial amendment fights, I continue to be encouraged by the bipartisan atmosphere among the Members on the Armed Services Committee. Working through our differences, the Committee passed the NDAA by a vote of 61-0, giving the legislation strong bipartisan momentum as we head to consideration before the full House of Representatives next month. Every Member on this committee, Republican or Democrat, recognizes the critical function our military serves and the need for Congress to support its success. I’m proud to serve alongside these men and women.
As we move forward with this fight to preserve the LCS, I am mindful of the fact that we still have work to do. However, I consider the passage of this legislation through our committee a substantial victory for the ship. It shows that the committee stands fully behind this program and recognizes its importance to the future fleet. It also underscores the need for Southwest Alabama to have a voice in this process, and makes me proud to serve as a member on the Armed Services Committee to represent our area. As we consider this legislation before the full House, I continue to be optimistic that we will be successful. I’ll keep working hard to preserve these important jobs for Southwest Alabama.