Defense Daily | 02/06/2014 | Megan Eckstein
The Amphibious Warship Industrial Base Coalition wrote to the Congressional Shipbuilding Caucus Thursday to request funding for a 12th LPD amphibious transport dock that the coalition believes the Pentagon and Congress may grant.
AWIBC chairman Brian Schires told Defense Daily on Thursday that the LPD program has received “strong support, particularly from the members where we have a large presence in their particular states or districts”–which, given that the coalition represents more than 2,000 businesses in 48 states and 340 congressional districts, is a lot of members.
“We can’t get anybody to come out and say, ‘yes, it’s going to be there,’” Schires said, but several lawmakers have indicated they would do whatever they could to include funding for the 12th ship in the budget if the Pentagon doesn’t include it in its request, due to Congress later this month.
“I haven’t seen anything in writing…but we get good vibes,” he continued. “When we walk in and talk to our members, they tell us they’ll do everything they can.”
In the letter to Congressional Shipbuilding Caucus chairmen Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Va.) and Joe Courtney (D-Conn.), Schires wrote that, “It is critical to national security that these combat warships and their U.S. Navy-Marine Corps teams be available and in position around the globe to respond to threats and to protect U.S. citizens. It is also critical to national security that the U.S. industrial base that provides parts and products for amphibious warships remain strong. Building these warships on a regular schedule ensures stability in construction, keeps production lines active and allows second- and third-tier suppliers to allocate their resources and manpower to support the cost-effective and fiscally efficient production of amphibious warships.”
The letters asks for incremental funding in FY ’15 for LPD-28, what would be the 12th ship in a planned 11-ship class, “to allow suppliers across the country to begin manufacturing parts and products for its construction.”
“Without sustained funding for the production and construction program of the next San Antonio-class amphibious warship, LPD-28, the skilled jobs of the industrial shipbuilding base are at risk,” the letter continues.
Schires, who works for Rolls Royce, which supplies the controllable pitch propeller system for the LPDs, said the planning and the parts for the ship have grown more affordable and reliable as the production line continues. If an LPD-28 can be constructed and the next class of amphibs, the LX(R), can be started earlier, the industrial base could move from one ship class to the next without worrying about laying off skilled workers or having small suppliers go out of business.