House passes bill, moves to save 5 Navy littoral combat ships

Naval Station Mayport might be on track to keep several ships threatened with decommissioning.

MAYPORT, Fla. – Naval Station Mayport might be on track to keep several ships threatened with decommissioning.

The House of Representatives has moved to save at least five littoral combat ships in a vote that sunk an amendment to the defense authorization bill.

Littoral combat ships were part of a new wave of Navy vessel when they were designed and then delivered. Now, they seem to be a target of their own leaders, criticized most severely by the chief of naval operations.

Admiral Mike Gilday told the Armed Services Committee in May that the freedom-class LCS has an anti-submarine warfare system that “did not work out technically.”

The ships are supposed to be able to handle three different mission sets interchangeably: one for surface warfare, one for mine warfare and the anti-submarine package.

Naval Station Mayport is home to more than half a dozen LCSs. The newest one - the USS Minneapolis-St. Paul - just arrived this week, commissioned this spring.

Decommissioning most of the LCS vessels due to technology issues doesn’t work for members of Congress who voted this week. They were given a 25-year lifespan by manufacturers.

Rep. John Rutherford, R-Jacksonville, said during debate on the amendment, “Decommissioning nine ships at the beginning of their service life is... fiscal malpractice.”

Rutherford tweeted Thursday night, “I will continue my fight to save all 9 LCS and to prevent further misuse of taxpayer dollars.”

Keeping the ships in service makes a significant impact on Northeast Florida and the defense industry in the region. The JAX Chamber sent lawmakers a plea to vote against decommissioning, and that seemed to be heard.

The Florida Times-Union reports three or four Mayport-based LCSs could still be decommissioned next year. It depends on what happens in the Pentagon’s final 2023 budget.

About the Author:

Kent Justice co-anchors News4Jax's 5 p.m., 10 and 11 p.m. newscasts weeknights and reports on government and politics. He also hosts "This Week in Jacksonville," Channel 4's hot topics and politics public affairs show each Sunday morning at 9 a.m.