Tuesday, February 11, 2014

New Shipbuilding Advocacy Group
Lobbies for Industry

By Mark Edward Nero

A newly formed national shipbuilding advocacy group calling itself the Amphibious Warship Industrial Base Coalition (AWIBC) on Feb. 6 sent a letter to member of the chairs of the Congressional Shipbuilding Caucus, urging sustained funding for the construction of amphibious warships.

“Building these warships on a regular schedule ensures stability in construction, keeps production lines active, and allows second- and third-tier suppliers to allocate their resources and manpower to support the cost-effective and fiscally efficient production of amphibious warships,” the letter, addressed to Rep. Rob Wittman (R–Va.), and Rep. Joe Courtney, (D-Conn.), said. It was signed by AWIBC chair Brian Schires, who is the vice president of Rolls-Royce North America’s marine programs.

“AWIBC requests that Congress provide incremental funding in fiscal year 2015 for the next San Antonio-class amphibious warship, LPD 28, to allow suppliers across the country to begin manufacturing parts and products for its construction,” Schires stated in the letter. “Without sustained funding for the production and construction program of the next San Antonio-class amphibious warship, LPD 28, the skilled jobs of the industrial shipbuilding base are at risk.”

The letter pointed out that US Navy amphibious warships make it possible for the US Navy and Marine Corps to respond swiftly and aggressively from sea and air in times of crisis, from major combat operations to humanitarian assistance and disaster relief across the world. They hold, transport and deploy combat vehicles, helicopters, amphibious landing craft and assault vehicles. The US lost an estimated 57,000 manufacturing facilities and six million manufacturing jobs between 1998 and 2010, according to the AWIBC, something the coalition says it finds troubling.

“If this trend continues, there is a very real risk that there will be a permanent loss of the skills required to make much-needed parts and services for US ships, and the US military will need to look overseas for suppliers,” Schires wrote. “We have to maintain the core shipbuilding industrial base that we need.”