U.S. House votes to approve funding for LCS program
The USS Milwaukee, the U.S. Navy's fifth littoral combat ship, was built at Marinette Marine and launched into the Menominee River, Dec. 18, 2013. (WLUK)
WASHINGTON, D.C. - A key vote in Washington Friday puts the Littoral Combat Ship program one step closer to staying afloat.The House voted overwhelmingly for a $570 billion defense bill.However, the measure funds the construction of only one LCS at Marinette Marine next year.Marinette Marine is one of two shipyards building Littoral Combat Ships for the Navy.The U.S. House approved funding for the building of two ships in 2015. One for each contractor."We're able to maintain an industrial base as a result of this, so I think this was a good result," said Rep. Reid Ribble, R-8th District.However, the bill does not include funding for the Marinette shipyard to start construction of a second ship, which had been included in earlier legislation. It also cuts the Navy's original order in half.But Friday's vote by the House is a significant accomplishment according to Ribble. He says there had been talk of further cuts."There were a lot of rumors that that was going to happen. That did not happen, there were no amendments offered to end the program, which would have been the worst possible result," said Ribble in a phone interview after the vote.In a statement Friday, Lockheed Martin, which subcontracts to Marinette Marine, said: "We are confident in our team's progress on the program, and won't speculate on pending legislation as these mark-ups are part of a multi-step process."The next steps from here involve the Senate. The full body still needs to pass a bill authorizing the ships, and a bill to pay for them.Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisconsin, said she was disappointed with the House passed bill. In a statement, she added: "I worked hard to ensure that three ships were authorized by the Senate Armed Services Committee and am hopeful that as we move forward and reconcile both the House and Senate bills, we can ensure full funding of three LCS so we can avoid a disruption in our workforce and ensure the LCS continues to have a positive impact on our Wisconsin economy."Ribble says if the final legislation includes funding for three ships, that third ship would likely be built in Wisconsin."It would typically go to the shipyard that is most on schedule. If both shipyards were equal on footing, they would be, both be on time. But Marinette Marine is ahead of the schedule; the Austal Program is behind schedule," Ribble explained.A timeline on when Senate bills will reach the floor is unclear.In a statement, Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisconsin, said it's uncertain whether the Senate will even debate, much less pass, a defense spending bill.
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