By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Thursday December 17, US Senators Richard Shelby (R-Alabama) and Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama) joined US Representative Bradley Byrne (R-Montrose) in protesting a Secretary of Defense recommendation to cut the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) program.
Defense News is reporting that Secretary of Defense Ash Carter has asked the Navy to “reduce the planned LCS procurement from 52 to 40…and then downselect to one (LCS) variant by FY 2019.” There are two classes of LCS in the Navy. One built by Lockheed, the ‘Freedom’ class, and the other built by Austal, the ‘Independence’ class, at a shipyard in Mobile.
Senator Shelby said in a statement, “The Obama Administration has once again demonstrated that it is tone-deaf when it comes to national security with this reckless proposal. The LCS is critical to our Navy’s ability to respond to current and future threats across the world, and we cannot threaten our military’s ability to execute future operations with this powerful warfighter.”
Senator Sessions said, “This would be a monumental error and must not stand. It would overrule the long-settled priorities of the Navy. The LCS has been a top priority for the Navy for almost 20 years, has been supported by the last six Secretaries of the Navy and every Chief of Naval Operations since Admiral Vern Clark, and has had strong bipartisan Congressional support every year. This is troubling not just for the 4,000 hardworking Austal employees in Mobile, but also for the future of our Navy and our national security. The Navy and DOD have for years praised LCS as crucial to our future naval warfighting capabilities, and a necessary component of the surface warfare community.”
Congressman Bradley Byrne said, “The United States is threatened by multiple adversaries, from China’s efforts to dominate the sea lanes in the South China Sea to Russia’s initiatives in the Black Sea through its seizure of Crimea, and to Iran’s attempts to choke off lanes into the Persian Gulf. Our Navy is at risk across the world and the weak and impotent Obama Administration seeks to further undermine our position with this ill-considered decision.”
Sen. Shelby said, “Now more than ever, we must strengthen our military presence around the world – not weaken it. Let me be clear: I will fight tooth and nail against this misguided attempt to needlessly undermine the security of our nation and the American people.”
Sen. Sessions said, “The Navy has, for many years, stated its goal of building up its capacity to 308 ships. We are currently at only 282 ships. Cutting LCS procurement to just 40 ships will make the Navy’s 308 ship goal impossible to achieve, as the only alternatives to LCS are far more expensive to produce and maintain. Indeed, little of the savings would be applied to other ships.”
Rep. Byrne said, “Make no mistake about it, from Mobile to Marinette and from San Diego to Jacksonville, the bell has rung, and those in the Pentagon need to hear that this will not stand. Not just for our ship yards but also for our Navy and for the defense of the people of the United States of America.”
Sen. Sessions stated, “LCS is crucial to our country’s future naval capabilities, and the 52 ship requirement is essential to get our Navy to the numbers it needs. I intend to fight against this proposed reduction, and I will continue to fight for LCS.”
On August 11, Austal delivered the third littoral combat ship built at its state-of-the-art shipyard to the U.S. Navy. This milestone marks the first LCS ship built by Austal as the prime contractor as part of a 10-ship, $3.5 billion block-buy contract. Austal USA President Craig Perciavalle was part of a ceremony held aboard the future USS Jackson (LCS 6) to celebrate the event.
Perciavalle said. “To deliver our first LCS as prime contractor is a major milestone for our company. I can’t express enough how proud I am to be part of this team of amazing men and women who made this accomplishment possible through their hard work and dedication. This truly is an extraordinary ship built by extraordinary people.”
After the delivery of Jackson, six Independence-variant LCS remain under construction at Austal’s Alabama shipyard. Montgomery (LCS 8) is being prepared for trials later this year. Gabrielle Giffords (LCS 10) was recently christened, while Omaha (LCS 12) is being prepared for launch, and assembly is underway on Manchester (LCS 14). Modules for Tulsa (LCS 16), Charleston (LCS 18), and Cincinnati (LCS 20) are under construction in Austal’s module manufacturing facility.
Perciavalle said theb, “The program continues to mature very well here, and each ship continues to improve as lessons-learned are incorporated real time . The momentum gained on this program is great to see and will position us well in the future.”
The Obama Administration will formally make its defense department budget request for the 2017 fiscal year early next year.