Wicker concerned by Pentagon's defense budget

By Patrice Clark - bio | email

PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) - After stepping off Northrop Grumman's newly built Coast Guard cutter, Senator Roger Wicker gave his interpretation of the Pentagon's 2010 defense budget. He said there's a positive side to the proposal to take the DDG 1000 contract away from Northrop Grumman and give it to another company.

"We are going to be doing the 51 class, and that's okay with the Navy and that's okay with us here at Northrop Grumman. It is going to mean jobs for Mississippians," Senator Wicker said.

Northrop Grumman officials say 25 of the DDG 51s have already been built and shipped out from the Pascagoula shipyard. Three more are currently under construction.

"There is a saying quantity has a quality all its own. When it comes to the Navy, I think building a sufficient quality of ships is very important," Wicker said.

What concerns Senator Wicker is that Secretary Gates may have too many major changes and cuts in the multi-billion dollar budget proposal. Wicker says he doesn't want the changes to tamper with the protection of our country.

"National defense is not the national culprit when it comes to national debt and the national deficit each year. The deficit is mainly a function of the domestic spending program; particularly, the rapid growth of our entitlement programs."

Wicker pledges not to let the sinking economy sink the defense program in South Mississippi.

"Certainly, we need to be efficient, and we need to be good stewards of the taxpayers' dollars, no doubt about it. I would look for cuts elsewhere. As a member of the Armed Services Committee and a member of the Seapower Subcommittee, we are going to make sure America is defended. That is going to the primary consideration."

The proposed overall fiscal year 2010 Defense Department budget is more than $530 billion.  Congress still needs to approve the budget plan.

©2009 WLOX. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.