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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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091813VISITS.jpg

VISITS MARINETTE MARINE—U.S. Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, center, visited the Marinette Marine Corporation shipyard in Marinette on Thursday, Sept. 12 for a tour of the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) production line and to update the local construction team on the status of the Lockheed Martin-led LSC construction program. Shown left to right are Dave Pyron, LCS9 construction superintendent; Joe North, Lockheed Martin vice president of Littoral ships and systems; Mabus; Chuck Goddard, president and CEO of Marinette Marine Corporation, and Tom Perrine, Marinette Marine Corporation’s vice president of manufacturing. They are standing on the hull of the future USS Little Rock, LCS 9, in one of the huge construction buildings at the Marinette shipyard.

U.S. Navy Secretary Mabus Pledges Support For Marinette Marine Shipbuilding Contracts

“Working together, we’re going to make sure we get the ships that America needs,” Ray Mabus. U. S. Secretary of the Navy, told approximately 300 Marinette Marine Corporation employees Thursday, Sept. 12 during a tour of the local ship building facilities.

His further comments were that Navy needs the full compliment of 52 ships of the LCS class. Marinette Marine, home of the first LCS ever built, has a contract to build 10 of those ships and four are currently under construction in the recently expanded facilities at the Marinette shipyard.

“I use this program as an example of what can be done,” Mabus told the assembled workers in the building where portions of the future USS Little Rock and USS Milwaukee are being constructed. “I don’t think people understand how hard a profession you are in...Thank you Marinette Marine.”

“LCS represents the future...the future of the Navy, the future of manufacturing, the future of how we get things done,” Mabus declared.

USS Freedom, the first LCS ship ever built, has had some problems, Mabus conceded, but he indicated they have been solved. “The USS Freedom today is deployed in the South China Sea. I saw Freedom in Singapore last April. By 2016 or 2017 we will have four LCS in Singapore.”

He said the ship fits in well with ships of other nations in the Singapore port, and does the job she was designed to do, which is help the US Navy protect the world. He described the Navy as the “away team” for the United States.

The LCS program has come under attack in Washington, by the General Accountability Office (GAO) and some legislators, who have questioned the cost and capabilities of the ships.

Mabus admitted there had been problems with Freedom, but said they have been worked out. “Freedom was the first of her class,” he declared. “She was experimental. In fact, she was built with research and development funds.

“Every single first ship of a class had issues,” Mabus declared. “It is important that we learn.” He said those problems are being worked out, and projections are that the cost of the 10th LCS to be built will be about half the cost of the first one.

An unidentified worker during a tour of the facilities confided that when Freedom was built they had welded some pipes, and now they bend them to fit instead, just one small example of changes made to make the vessels more durable.

Mabus said in 2008 the United States Navy had four ships under contract. When 9/11 happened the Navy owned 278 ships. “Quantity is important,” he declared. Since May of 2009, when he took office, the Navy has had 60 ships under contract.

Mabus commented Marinette Marine looks a lot different than it did when he visited for the first time. Two years ago he came back on an extremely cold day in December of 2009 for launch of USS Fort Worth, the second LCS built in Marinette. That ship was delivered two months ahead of schedule, Mabus noted. The expansion had started by that time, and now there are four LCS under construction at the same time.

“You can’t come through here and not think that American manufacturing is excellent,” he declared. He said it is obvious the needed business investments are being made.

Two problems, both of them financial, threaten expansion of the LCS fleet, Mabus said.

They are sequestration, which demands a 10 percent cut in individual categories each year, “And they tell you how to do it, so you can’t make sound decisions.”

The other is “continuing resolutions,” which stem from Congress’ inability to pass a budget. “Since 2005, Congress hasn’t passed a budget on time,” Mabus said. This impacts the Navy’s ability to plan ahead. “If we don’t do something about that, the Navy’s immediate presence may not be there when it’s needed.”

Mabus said the Navy is absolutely committed to building all 52 ships of the class LCS, and likened calls to hold up on production because some weapons modules are not ready to deciding not to build aircraft carriers because not all the planes that can land on them have been completed.

During his visit, Secretary Mabus met with Dale Bennett, executive vice president of Lockheed Martin Mission Systems and Training; Joe North, vice president of Littoral ship systems for Lockheed Martin, and Marinette Marine President and CEO Chuck Goddard to discuss the program’s status, and spoke with local media about the LCS program.

Currently under construction at Marinette Marine are the USS Milwaukee, which is to be launched in December; plus USS Detroit, USS Little Rock, and USS Sioux City. Long-lead construction material is being procured for Wichita and Billings, LCS 13 and 15. Mabus announced in August that the next Freedom-variant warship (LCS 17) will be named Indianapolis.

When employees were given a chance to put questions to Mabus, the first was if he would consider naming a future LCS Marinette. Mabus indicated he would, “But for every ship, there are a hundred names suggested.” He laughingly said naming the “Little Rock” was “pretty easy”. Early in his career Mabus had served as an officer aboard the cruiser “Little Rock,” which was decommissioned in 1976.

Asked how the sailors feel about the Freedom, Mabus said the sailors and officers love it...”They love it that she goes fast and gets into places that other ships can’t.” Mabus added there are people in the Navy who don’t like the LCS, “It’s new, and it doesn’t look like other ships....Every time we build a new ship people say it won’t work...And every time, they’re wrong!”

Asked why the GAO is picking on Marinette, Mabus said they naturally take the GAO reports very seriously, but they had gone back and looked at all the GAO reports on other first ships and found they tend to be two to three years behind.

He said if the GAO came to Marinette to see the work that’s being done, they wouldn’t have any more questions. He repeated that improvements have been made in construction and design since the first LCS was built. He said the Navy needs both types of LCS - the version built in Marinette and the version built in Alabama.

The floor was opened to questions from reporters, and the first concerned “the dysfunction in Congress,” to which Mabus replied, “I, as secretary, am doing everything I can to protect ship building. I cannot do that forever if we keep operating under these dumb rules. We cannot reach the efficiencies with sequester and continuing resolutions.”

In reference to the “negative news” regarding continuing the LCS contracts, Mabus said the work force here is doing great, and one of the reasons for his visit was to show his support. “We need this ship for the Navy, and we need to build the whole class!” He felt the best way to save the program from Congress would be to get the the correct information, “and be sure it’s up to date, and not a couple of years old.”

“We will continue to perform here, and let him do the heavy lifting in Washington,” Goddard said. “We’re learning efficiencies every day.” He said the Marinette shipyard has added 500 new employees in the last two years, bringing the current total to 850, and he has a requisition in for an additional 157. He predicted eventually a total of 1,500 would be employed here.


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