Legislators Gather to Tout Amphibious Ship Procurement

By Yasmin Tadjdeh

San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship USS Anchorage

Procuring new amphibious ships — which can rapidly move and sustain Marines across the globe — will be a priority for the new Congress, legislators said Feb. 3.

“There is and has been bipartisan support” for amphibious warship initiatives in Congress, said Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., chairman of the subcommittee on seapower for the Senate Armed

Services Committee. The vessels — which he described as the Swiss army knives of the sea — are versatile, responsive and can operate independently. They perform a variety of tasks including combat and humanitarian missions.

Further, Rep. Rob Wittman, R-Va., chairman of the House Armed Services Committee’s subcommittee on readiness, said amphibious ships are of great strategic importance to the country.

“This nation today more that ever needs presence,” Wittman said. “How we project presence? [With] our Navy-Marine Corps teams, specifically our Marine Corps and amphibious ships. They are the all-purpose vehicle of our Navy. They are critical to what we do.”

Both lawmakers spoke at a forum held on Capitol Hill hosted by the Amphibious Warship Industrial Base Coalition, an organization that advocates for amphibious ship initiatives.

The speeches came as the military grapples with balancing austerity and capability, all while facing growing challenges and threats around the globe — from the Middle East, to Eastern Europe to Asia.

The Marine Corps has said one of its procurement priorities is building the 12th ship of the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ships (LPD 17). The vessel has been designated as LPD 28.

Last year, Congress rallied to enact $1 billion toward the program. The president’s fiscal year 2016 budget, released on Feb. 2, allocated $668.7 million to complete funding for the vessel, which is to be built by Huntington Ingalls Industries.

As the nation faces threats around the world, amphibious ships will be critical, Wicker said.

“We’re going to rebalance to the Pacific at a time when Putin and expansionist Russia doesn’t seem to be dialing back at all. … When the Middle East is as unstable as it has been in my memory,” he said. “You can’t do it [all] with a diminished force. We’re going to have to tend to that. I think we will do so on a bipartisan basis."

The fleet of amphibious ships currently stands at 31 vessels. The military has said 38 ships are needed. Wicker noted that he agreed with that number and hoped Congress could fund them.
LPD 28 will also serve as a bridge to the future next-generation amphibious ship known as the LXR, Wittman noted.

“The LPD 28 will allow us a learning curve to determine how we can build the next-generation amphibious ship, build it well, build it as efficiently as we can, build it to a requirement and make sure that requirement is done in the most cost efficient way possible,” he said.

“The next generation amphibious warship is what we need as a nation,” Wittman said. “Our adversaries are not stopping. In fact, they are advancing at quantum leaps. If we don’t do at least as much, and I argue we must do more, then we will find ourselves in a precarious position in the not too distant future.”

Topics: Defense Department, DOD Budget, Expeditionary Warfare, Shipbuilding, Surface Ships

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