Late in the day on Thursday April 30th, it was announced that Fincantieri, a current contractor supplying LCS ships to the US Navy, has won the contract to supply the next generation frigate to the US Navy as well. Despite being a contractor that has supplied subpar ships over budget and beyond the time frame promised, Fincantieri is located in Wisconsin, a vital state to the reelection effort of President Donald Trump.
Mobile Alabama based Austal USA was the other finalist for the contract, and did not win even though they have a reputation for delivering their variant of the LCS ship on time and on budget with way fewer problems than the variant built by Fincantieri. The news was disappointing for Mobile, the city that launched President Trump’s 2016 campaign into the stadium stratosphere.
Austal president Craig Perciavalle said in a statement, “Despite our extreme disappointment over this outcome, we have a portfolio of other opportunities that we continue to pursue in addition to our backlog of EPF and LCS work that extends through 2024 including EPF variants and unmanned surface vessels. We have great facilities and an even greater workforce and we are committed to continuing to build highly capable and cost effective ships for the U.S. Navy, Austal USA has delivered 11 Independence-variant LCS with six more under construction and two awaiting start of construction. The company has also delivered 11 Expeditionary Fast Transports with two more under construction and one awaiting start of construction. With 22 Austal ships delivered, the company’s global services division is growing as it supports the U.S. Navy’s fleet maintenance and modernization.”
Alabama First congressional district representative Bradley Byrne releases a statement shortly after the news that said, “The men and women who work at the Austal shipyard in Mobile are the finest in the country. I disagree with the Navy’s decision, and I look forward to thoroughly examining the Navy’s decision making in this process in the coming days. At the same time, I’m committed to working with Austal, the Navy, and the Trump Administration to ensure we don’t destroy our critical shipbuilding industrial base, especially at a time when the threat environment clearly demands more small surface ships.”
Reaction from Alabama’s to US senators also came in overnight, including Richard Shelby who sits on the Senate Appropriations Committee that’ll be responsible for funding the frigate program. Senator Doug Jones release the following statement after The decision was announced, “I am disappointed that the Navy chose not to award the contract for the next-generation guided-missile frigate to Austal USA. Austal is the only U.S. shipbuilder providing ships to the Navy on time and on budget right now. It is my understanding that this award is for the first ten of a potential 20-ship buy, and I am confident that if Austal chooses to compete for future awards, the Navy will find Austal to be the best choice. Just last December, Austal USA celebrated 20 years of shipbuilding in Mobile. Austal’s extraordinary success is testament to its unmatched local workforce and its ability to build highly capable, cost-effective ships safely and on schedule. I especially appreciate Austal’s commitment to the health and safety of its employees and the community, as well as to our national security, through the workforce protection measures it has implemented and its economic support donations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Our shipbuilders are critical to our national defense, and I am grateful for their dedication during this difficult time.” US Senator Richard Shelby said, “While I’m disappointed that Austal USA did not win the Frigate competition, I believe in its talented workforce and the unique capabilities the shipyard has been producing in recent years. Austal currently has contracts that will keep the shipyard busy and active through 2024. It is my understanding that Austal will continue to seek out and compete for additional work, and I look forward to helping them identify those opportunities.”
Mobile Mayor Sandy Simpson reacted by saying, “We are disappointed but we respect the Navy’s decision. Austal was prepared to deliver a world-class frigate. Instead, they will continue to deliver the LCS and the EPF on time and on budget – a rarity in defense contracting. Austal is more than just a great shipbuilder – they are also a great corporate citizen and their skilled workforce is a true national asset. Their future remains bright in Mobile.”
Kiana Gardner, who is one of the Democrats in the July 14th runoff for the opportunity to replace Congressman Bradley Byrne, was the only candidate in the race to respond to a request for comment and this is what she had to say, “It is with great sadness that I learned today that the contract to build 10 newguided missile frigates, a contract worth $5.5 billion or more, was awarded notto Austal USA but instead to Fincantieri Marinette Marine in Wisconsin. Austal USA has a proventrack record of producing quality naval vessels that meet or exceed design parameters and doing so on time and on budget. I have no doubt that Austal USA’s bid was the lowest and, thanks in no small part to the hard-working men and women of South Alabama who put their heat and soul into their work, of all the competitors they would deliver thehighest quality with the greatest reliability. Unfortunately, this is anelection year and Wisconsin is considered a battleground state in the 2020presidential election, while Alabama is considered a “lock” to re-elect DonaldTrump. Passing over Austal USA and awarding the frigate contract to a company based in Wisconsin reeks ofelection-year political games. I am appalled that safety of the men and women who serve this country in the United States Navy, the hardwork and expertise of our Alabama workforce and the political loyalty this state has shown to the Trump administration would all be ignored in favor of a politician’s or political parties’ electoral ambitions. Austal USA is a vital partof our South Alabama family and I encourage every Alabamian to call theirCongressperson and Senator and let them know we stand with Austal USA and weresent having our families and our homes taken for granted while professionalpoliticians once again play political games with our lives. It is time our elected officials used their supposed sway with the Trump administration and make the men and women of SouthAlabama their FIRST priority.”