U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, today attended a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower to consider the U.S. Navy’s shipbuilding programs. The Navy and Marine Corps leaders at the hearing praised the capabilities of Mississippi-built amphibious ships and suggested there was tremendous potential for block buys of ships to save costs, guarantee on-time delivery, and grow the industrial base.
In his questions to the panel, Wicker highlighted his trip to Pascagoula, Miss., to tour the Tripoli, a new large-deck LHA amphibious ship that was delivered to the U.S. Navy on Friday. Huntington Ingalls also builds the smaller LPD amphibious ship in Pascagoula.
Wicker asked Lieutenant General Eric M. Smith, Commanding General for the Marine Corps Combat Development Command, to describe the importance of these amphibious platforms to the fleet.
“The importance of those ships is vital to what we provide to the fleet,” Smith said. “The best expeditionary advanced base is an amphibious warship that moves.”
Wicker pointed to the vast size of the LHA platform, which can host 3,000 personnel and support the highly-advanced F-35B fighter jet.
“It is the melding of the kit, the equipment, and those fantastic Marines onboard, along with their sailors, that are really able to project power and cause a dilemma for the adversary,” Smith said.
Wicker also asked James Geurts, the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development, and Acquisition, about the possibility of block buys for future amphibious ships, which have provided significant cost savings for other Navy programs.
“I think there is tremendous potential… to do a block buy of the three LPDs and the LHA,” Geurts said. “We see that savings… to be in the 8 to 12 percent range, which would be a billion dollars back in taxpayer savings.”
Geurts also committed to executing up to $350 million in funding that was authorized for the purchase of long-lead time materials for LHA-9. Securing these materials will help to ensure an on-time delivery of the ship, which is expected to be procured in Fiscal Year 2023.
Geurts closed his remarks to Wicker by praising the senator’s SHIPS Implementation Act, which was introduced in February.
“The things that I have seen in the draft of the SHIPS Implementation Act in terms of giving us more authorities to do smart procurement will be tremendously beneficial to us, and we look forward to those authorities should they come,” Geurts said.
Wicker’s legislation would authorize the use of several cost-saving measures, including multi-year or block buy contract authorities, and direct the Navy to accelerate its procurement of ships to help reach the nation’s 355-ship fleet goal.
Release from Senator Roger Wicker.