Congressional Republicans are falling all over themselves to build a costly ship the Pentagon doesn’t want and the Navy says is “unreliable” and actually a liability to the fleet.
Those same Republicans in Congress are self-declared staunch fiscal conservatives if spending even a penny benefits a regular person in America, but they’ll throw an extra $475,000,000 at defense contractors to please the residents of Wisconsin and Alabama. The Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) program has turned into a dud, with initial sea trials leaving the expensive combat frigates in port for repairs up to 58% of its time in service.
Even the non-partisan Government Accountability Office said that the government should freeze the program entirely in 2017, which is set to deliver two of the balky and unwanted ships. Ordering the extra ship was an intentional partisan slight towards Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, and towards the Obama Administration whose departments all concluded that America could spend that money better elsewhere. Last December, Secretary Carter ordered the number of ordered ships cut from 52 to 40, which would save us billions – but Congress is trying to override him for their own personal agendas.
Nothing would stop Alabama’s Republican Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) and his partner in government waste, the outspoken Trump supporter Rep. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) from cooking up over a billion dollars worth of military pork just so that a little chunk of it lands in the pockets of Austal Corporation – whose shipyards just happen to be in Mobile, Alabama.
Combined, Austral and Lockheed Martin spent nearly $4 million on lobbying for the program from this January through March. Not a bad rate of return considering that each ship costs $475,000,000, including a fat profit for the contractors. The House GOP’s crooked spending decision to buy more of these lemons from a failed ship program is going to push the decision onto the next President’s plate too, in a bill that’s making it’s way through Congress.
The Navy’s own assessments say that these ships are “unreliable.” The Pentagon’s report has suddenly become mysteriously unavailable online, but Google’s cache preserved it. So we made a PDF out of the cached copy for posterity, and embedded all 24 pages below. The Navy’s 2015 report about their wayward LCS Navy ship program is rather revealing:
– Operational Suitability. The Freedom variant LCS seaframe is not operationally suitable because many of its critical systems supporting ship operations, core mission functions, and mission package operations are unreliable; and the ship’s crew does not have adequate training, tools, and technical documentation to diagnose failures or correct them when they occur.
Alabama Republicans Shelby and Sessions talk a big game, but they bought the Navy a small fleet of overpriced gray elephant ships that probably do not scare the Chinese Navy so much as the American sailors manning them in dangerous waters. This kind of systematic funneling of our budget to defense contractors and arms dealers is just part of the status quo these days – just look at the colossal waste of the F-35 program. But the members of Congress would rather hand out your tax money to buy things we don’t need than invest in America’s people or its future.
Grant Stern is the Executive Editor of Occupy Democrats and published author. His new Meet the Candidates 2020 book series is distributed by Simon and Schuster. He's also mortgage broker, community activist and radio personality in Miami, Florida., as well as the producer of the Dworkin Report podcast. Grant is also an occasional contributor to Raw Story, Alternet, and the DC Report, and a senior advisor to the Democratic Coalition