Congressman Steven Palazzo, (MS-4), today questioned top Navy and Marine Corps officials at a hearing on the FY15 Navy Budget Request released last week. Witnesses included Commandant of the Marine Corps, General James F. Amos, Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Jonathan Greenert, and Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus.
In remarks before the House Armed Services Committee, Palazzo noted the contribution that “world-class war ships that are built in my district” bring to the U.S. Navy and the Marine Corps, stating: “I believe many of you agree that the world is not getting safer but is becoming more dangerous, and that we need more ships, not less ships.”
Palazzo also asked: “General Amos, do you support the requirement for a 12th ship of the LPD 17 class? And would you please explain the capability that vessel would add to the Marine Corps mission?”
In his response, General Amos praised the LPD 17 class ships, most of which were built by Huntington Ingalls in Pascagoula: Congressman, the capabilities are significant. That's a wonderful ship. … it's a wonderful ship and it's being built with a very high degree of quality. I would love to have the twelfth ship. We would love to have the twelfth ship. … The twelfth ship, if money was allocated, would allow us some decision space, as we look towards just exactly what's going to replace those LSDs, those 12 LSD 41, 49 class ships that we have, which are nearing the end of their service life.”
In his response, Palazzo cited the existing platform’s cost advantage over new programs, stating: “So the Marines clearly want and need a twelfth LPD and the LPD maintains the critical industrial base, hot for rolling right into procuring the next amphibious ships based on the LPD hull form. And experience in shipbuilding has shown that new programs are always more expensive than desired and always take more time than planned. And I think it is vital that we support maintaining the current program that is building these ships and receiving excellent marks from the operational commanders and delivering a vital capability to our Marine Corps.”
Admiral Greenert also admitted that the Navy needed more ships than currently allotted in the FY15 budget, stating: “Today, in the world that we live in, the world that the Navy and Marine Corps lives in, and the future, we probably need 50 [amphibious ships]. If we want to do everything that we're asked to do -- and it's not just the COCOM's ask, it's we look out around the world. We could probably use 50 amphibious ships, but we don't have that.”
Palazzo recently condemned the president’s budget as an attempt to “balance the budget on the backs of our men and women in uniform.” Since entering office in 2009, President Obama has directed cuts of more than $1 trillion from defense budgets.
The San Antonio class LPD ships are the U.S. Navy's primary class of amphibious transport dock warships of the 21st century. Three of the six previously built San Antonio class LPD’s were built at the Ingalls Shipbuilding Pascagoula shipyard, with two more currently under construction. Any additional San Antonio class LPD’s, such as the additional ship for which Palazzo has publically advocated, would be built in Pascagoula. Although twelve ships of the San Antonio class were originally proposed, the twelfth was cancelled due in part to budget cuts.