By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Politcal Reporter
Friday, June 17, 2016, US Representative Bradley Byrne (R-Montrose) applauded passage of the 2017 Defense Appropriations Act, which includes funding for building three more Littoral Combat Ships (LCS).
Congressman Byrne said that Thursday’s passage of the Defense Appropriations Act, including funding for the three LCSs, shows that there continues to be widespread, bipartisan opposition to efforts to cut the LCS program.
Rep. Byrne said, “This strong, bipartisan vote makes clear the fact that the House of Representatives supports the Littoral Combat Ship program. The LCS is an important tool for our sailors, and the ship is critical if the Navy is to meet their stated goal of a 308 ship fleet.”
Rep. Byrne said, “Both of the annual defense bills have now passed the House, and they both reject efforts to cut the LCS program. I cannot understate the significance of this development, and it puts us in a great position heading into negotiations with the Senate.”
The passage of the Defense Appropriations Act follows passage earlier this year of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The NDAA authorizes the military spending while the appropriations bill provides the actual funding for it.
There are currently, two different versions of the LCS. One is built by Austal USA in Mobile and the other is built by Marinette Marine in Wisconsin. The Independence variant of the LCS is built in the Mobile area by Austal USA, which employs over 4,000 people.
President Obama’s new Secretary of Defense Ash Carter had proposed building just 40 LCSs rather than the 52 that were planned by the navy and having those remaining ships provided by just one supplier. There is a high probability that the Pentagon would opt for Lockheed Martin’s more conventional single hull Wisconsin built Freedom Class rather than Austal’s trimaran hulled Independence class made in Mobile.
President Obama’s proposed 2017 budget called for the proposed “downselect” to a single LCS supplier.
US Pacific Command (PACOM) Commander Admiral Harry Harris called the LCS a “terrific platform to work with our allies and partners in the region.” He went on to say that he has always valued the LCS, dating back to his time as Pacific Fleet Commander for the Navy. “I believe there is a place for LCS in the joint force, now that I am the PACOM commander.”
The Obama Administration had asked to purchase just two of the ships in Fiscal Year 2017. Massive cost overruns in the troubled F-35 strike fighter project is forcing the Pentagon to reexamine other procurements. Some members of Congress would prefer that money go to the F35 or a new class of frigates yet to be designed rather than the smaller littoral combat ships.
The Defense Appropriations Act passed by a vote of 282 to 138
Congressman Bradley Byrne represents Alabama’s First Congressional District.