President Barack Obama just doesn’t get it. From ISIS to Russia to China to Iran, our nation is facing a wider range of threats than almost any time in our nation’s history. Despite these threats, the budget President Obama sent to Congress last week proposed making cuts to important military programs.
One of the programs President Obama wants to cut is the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS). As you may know, these are the ships we build at the Austal shipyard in Mobile. All along, the plan has been to build 52 Littoral Combat Ships, but the president has now proposed cutting the total to only 40 ships.
The president proposed these cuts against the wishes of our Navy leaders. In fact, just last year, Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus said, “We have a need, a demonstrated need, for 52 of these small surface combatants.”
So, I have a very clear message to the over 4,000 men and women who work at the Austal shipyard and their families: This proposal from a lame-duck President and his lame-duck Secretary of Defense will not stand.
I strongly support the LCS program and the work done at Austal because I know how important the shipyard is to our local economy, but that is not the main reason I have been so outspoken and worked so hard to push back against attempts to cut the program.
The main reason I support the LCS is because I know how important this class of ship is to keeping our Navy strong and our nation safe. Under President Obama, we have seen our Navy shrink to levels that are incredibly alarming. Making matters worse, the LCS is a unique ship that is designed to fill a role that no other ship in the fleet can fill.
The LCS is designed for littoral, or shallow, waters. The ship is especially important in the Pacific region where China is creating man-made islands in an attempt to take control of international waterways. Larger Navy vessels simply cannot sail in those waters, but the LCS is designed exactly for that type of mission.
It is also important to point out that the LCS program is continuing to mature and develop. Last week, the Mobile-built USS Coronado completed an important survivability test that allowed the ship and her crew to demonstrate their ability to handle and respond to a wide range of challenges. The Navy pointed out that the LCS not only passed but exceeded the survivability requirements.
The LCS is also a rare military program that has actually seen costs decrease over time. In these tight budget times, this is an incredibly important quality. The LCS is a very affordable ship that can help us re-establish our naval capacity.
I’ve seen these ships being built, I’ve talked to the Navy leadership, and I’ve visited with the sailors who are actually working on these vessels. They all support the LCS and the vital role it plays in the Navy’s fleet.
If the LCS wasn’t important to our national security strategy and Navy leaders weren’t so outspoken in support of the ship, I wouldn’t have taken up this fight, but I know how devastating it would be for our entire naval fleet to cut back on the LCS program.
I will fight every day to make sure that our Navy has the resources it wants and needs to protect our nation and keep sea lanes open. The LCS is a critical part of that mission.
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Bradley Byrne is a member of U.S. Congress representing Alabama’s 1st Congressional District.