Governors push to save Navy warship program

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Republican governors from three states are urging House lawmakers to protect funding for the Navy’s controversial littoral combat ship program in the fiscal 2015 defense budget.

The House Armed Services Committee’s defense bill, released this week, allows spending on only two ships next year, and another two in 2016, instead of purchasing four ships in 2015 as originally planned.

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“We are asking you to honor the previously made commitment,” Govs. Rob Bentley of Alabama, Rick Snyder of Michigan, and Scott Walker of Wisconsin wrote in a letter Monday to the chairmen and ranking members of the Armed Services and the Appropriations Committees. 

The governors said the Pentagon’s decision would hurt shipyards in their states that had already signed contracts and made preparations to build the new ships.

They said shipyards had already spent money to enhance their facilities, made contracts with suppliers, and hired workers to build the ships more efficiently at a lower cost to the government. 

“To break this contract now would be a huge disincentive to private investment. It would also force these shipyards to renegotiate with suppliers at a higher price and destabilize the workforce,” the letter said. 

They said the cost of breaking contracts would be $175 million per ship — nearly half the cost of one ship — and be passed on to the American taxpayer. 

The governors said the new littoral combat ships would be a critical addition to the Navy’s fleet.

“These are important ships that fill a strategic role. As agile ships capable of operating both close to shore and in open water, they are a key component of our Navy’s efforts to face modern threats,” they said. “They are tools America needs to protect our brave sailors and keep our nation strong and secure.”

The governors, though, face an uphill battle to save funding.

The Pentagon has expressed concerns over the program, after reports questioned the ship’s performance in combat situations. 

This year, the Pentagon requested only three ships for 2015 instead of the four they initially planned to procure. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has also ordered the Navy to look into alternatives to the ship. 

Randy Forbes, the chairman of the Armed Services panel’s Seapower and Projection Forces subcommittee, on Wednesday, said he backed Hagel’s review of the program.

“I support this program review and believe the results will inform the next generation of the Littoral Combat Ship," he said.