MARINETTE - The Secretary of the Navy says the military remains committed to Marinette Marine's Littoral Combat Ship program.
Workers at Marinette Marine have their hands full building four LCSs at the same time.
"They're coming out with the capability to do a lot of the things that we need done in the fleet," said Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus.
Shipyard employees took time out Thursday to hear Mabus talk about the LCS program.
"LCS represents the future, the future of the Navy, the future of manufacturing, the future of how we get things done," Mabus told a large group of workers.
Marinette Marine is under contract to build 10 of the ships. The work has helped amp up the company's workforce by hundreds.
However, the program has come under scrutiny by the Government Accountability Office due to its cost and the capabilities of the LCS.
The first ships off the line had mechanical issues. Marinette Marine officials say most of those issues have been addressed.
"We're improving the efficiencies. The secretary discussed a little bit, from the time the first ship, by the time we get to the 10th ship under this contract will be half the price of what that first ship was. So that's the kind of learning that we're able to achieve here," said Marinette Marine CEO and President Chuck Goddard.
There are other critics. One expert we spoke with says the LCS program should be stopped immediately.
"The LCS was a good idea as conceived and should have been pursued. Unfortunately the manner in which the U.S. Navy has pursued it has become, in the opinion of many observers, some very highly qualified, a total disaster," said Norman Polmar, who has consulted or advised three U.S. Naval secretaries.
"The way I understand the argument is that because the weapons modules are not where they are going to be in the end, that you ought to quit building the ships until the modules get ready. That's sort of like saying, okay, quit building aircraft carriers until you get all the airplanes that will ever go on that ship," Mabus responded.
Aside from the criticism, Mabus says there remain issues related to funding for the program.
"The thing that's threatening us the most is self-inflicted. It's sequestration, continuing resolutions. I, as Secretary, am doing everything I can to protect shipbuilding," Mabus said.
Marinette Marine officials say they expect to launch the next LCS this December.
They also anticipate hiring about 150 new employees to help build the ships.
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