Senator Shelby Pushes Job Creation; Responds to Concerns about Cuts to the Navy’s LCS Program in Mobile

U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-Tuscaloosa) is in the midst of a statewide jobs and industry tour in Alabama, where he has interest in the United States Navy’s LCS Program, and, in particular, Austral USA.

Senator Shelby has placed job creation and development at the top of his “to-do” list, and the current tour will visit a business in each of Alabama’s counties – a total of 67.

Accompanied by the Mayor of Mobile, Sandy Stimpson, and the President of Austal USA, Craig Perciavalle, the Senator conveyed to the media, “I’ve worked hard to see where we are today to help to bring us here. You know, we’ve got 4,000 employees here in Mobile and a – what? – $200 million payroll. I like what they’re doing. I like the jobs. I like the benefits to the economy, and I like what it’s going to do as far as national security.”

Prior to his media statement, Senator Shelby also released the following statement:

“Job creation must be our top priority as a nation, and it will be the focus of my statewide travel. It is critical that I hear firsthand from job creators and workers how federal policies are affecting economic growth, and what we can do to create more jobs in Alabama. These conversations with my constituents have always played a critical role in informing how I vote on issues before the Senate, and I look forward to traveling throughout the state again this year.”

The jobs tour comes less than one week after the approval by the Senate Appropriations Committee of a $1.012 trillion Fiscal Year 2014 Government Spending Bill.  The bill includes a great deal of investment in Mobile, such as:

  • $1.7 billion funding of the Navy’s LCS program, and a $7.6 million increase for the joint high-speed vessel program
  • $69.5 million for a new federal courthouse and renovations to the existing structure
  • Directive to the Corps of Engineers for the study of widening and deepening the Mobile harbor

But two days after those plans were made public, a U.S. Department of Defense memo was leaked, which indicated that the Navy’s LCS program might be cut by at least 20 ships in 2015.  Senator Shelby responded by telling reporters that the program has great worth for both national security and the United States Navy, and that it has proven that worth.  He continued to convey that even though a 20-ship reduction would be less than ideal, Austral USA’s contribution has the potential to “up the buy in the future.”  He asserted that even if the reduction in ships happens, “we’re still in positive ground.”

The original shipbuilding plans called for 52 LCS, including 12 Independent-class vessels from Austral USA’s facility in Mobile, and 12 Freedom-class ships from Lockheed Martin in Marinette, Wisconsin.

Austal’s Craig Perciavalle cautioned those following the Defense Department developments to be aware that any proposed cuts will affect the next buy, which is still two to three years in the future.  He said he is still confident in the Navy’s support of Austal products, and he expects a hiring of at least 200 more employees in the next few months.