Coast Guard to lobby Congress for South MS built cutters

PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) - As the budget battles continue in Washington D.C.,  the Congress is being urged to approve federal spending that could affect jobs in South Mississippi. On Friday morning, the Commandant of the United States Coast Guard toured a cutter under construction at Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula. Shipyard officials said allocating the money future cutters now makes building cheaper later.

One day, the Stratton will join her sister vessels in patrolling areas like the Bering Sea for drug smugglers, illegal migrants and terrorists. Coast Guard officials said the advantage of National Security Cutters over older models is the ability to launch teams through the stern.

Admiral Robert Papp said, "They found that they can launch boats and launch helicopters in seas much worse than the legacy ships, the old ships that we have up there."

So far Congress has approved funding for five cutters but Admiral Robert Papp is counting on money for three more.

"I need to go back to Washington and continue making the case for stable funding and predictable funding," said Admiral Papp. "So the shipyard can gain efficiencies of scale as we build these ships, and know that we're going to get through and build all eight that are in the current program."

Irwin Edenzon is the president of Ingalls Shipbuilding.

"We're anxious for the Congress to support the Coast Guard in stabilizing the funding of these ships. When you know what you're going to do for the next few years, you can get the workforce trained. You can buy the materials that you need. You can incorporate lessons learned. The stability of funding allows us to provide these ships to the Coast Guard at an affordable price."

"When the funding comes and goes and we can't predict the future, it makes it hard to hold the workforce," said Edenzon. "[It] makes it hard for our vendors and our suppliers to predict what they're business is going to be like in the future year."

After surveying the Stratton's progress, the Admiral said he's impressed with the Ingalls workmanship.

"Outstanding quality from Ingalls Shipyard. I could not be more pleased," Admiral Papp said. "I came down here to see the first ship when it was just through builder's trials. Stratton has just finished builder's trials. She's way ahead of where Bertholf, the number one ship, was at this time. You can see that the work force here has been learning, applying lessons learned and making the process more efficient, cost effective and making improvements along the way, as well."

Ingalls officials said with each new National Security Cutter, workers are learning to build faster and cheaper but still deliver a quality product.

"The more of the ship we build in the shops, the more efficient we can build it, the cheaper it is," Edenzon said. "So as we stabilized the design, we moved more of the work into the shops, so by the time we assemble the units and put the ship in the water, it's a much more advanced state of construction."

Coast Guard officials said the National Security Cutters are more fuel efficient, require less man power to operate, has more comfortable sleeping quarters and can travel at a maximum speed of 30 knots. Once delivered, the cutters are based in Alameda, California.

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