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Funding for 2 LCS ships included in U.S. House defense bill approved Friday

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The USS Milwaukee, the U.S. Navy's fifth littoral combat ship, was built at Marinette Marine and launched into the Menominee River, Dec. 18, 2013. (Photo from: FOX 11)
The USS Milwaukee, the U.S. Navy's fifth littoral combat ship, was built at Marinette Marine and launched into the Menominee River, Dec. 18, 2013. (Photo from: FOX 11)

WASHINGTON D.C. (WTAQ) - Lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly approve a defense bill Friday that authorizes funding for the Littoral Combat Ship program.

It's a $570 billion plan that includes the construction of two ships. But just one of those will be built at Marinette Marine next year. The other LCS ship will be constructed at an Alabama shipyard.

“We’re able to maintain an industrial base as a result of this, so I think this was a good result,” Rep. Reid Ribble, R-8th District, told FOX 11.

The bill also cuts the Navy’s original order in half. But according to Ribble, there was a lot of talk inside the beltway about cutting the entire LCS program.

“There were a lot of rumors that that was going to happen. That did not happen, there were no amendments offered to end the program, which would have been the worst possible result,” said Ribble in a phone interview after the vote.

In a statement Friday, Lockheed Martin, which subcontracts to Marinette Marine, said: “We are confident in our team’s progress on the program, and won’t speculate on pending legislation as these mark-ups are part of a multi-step process.”

Now the Senate must step up to the plate, by passing a bill authorizing the ships, and a bill to pay for them.

Wisconsin Democratic Senator Tammy Baldwin was disappointed in the bill approved in the House. In a statement, "I worked hard to ensure that three ships were authorized by the Senate Armed Services Committee and am hopeful that as we move forward and reconcile both the House and Senate bills, we can ensure full funding of three LCS so we can avoid a disruption in our workforce and ensure the LCS continues to have a positive impact on our Wisconsin economy.”

Ribble says if the final legislation includes funding for 3 ships that third ship would likely be built in Marinette.

“It would typically go to the shipyard that is most on schedule. If both shipyards were equal on footing, they would be, both be on time. But Marinette Marine is ahead of the schedule; the Austal Program is behind schedule,” Ribble explained.

A timeline on when Senate bills will reach the floor is unclear. Wisconsin Republican Senator Ron Johnson released a statement saying it’s uncertain whether the Senate will even debate, much less pass, a defense spending bill.

(Additional reporting by FOX 11)

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