Naval shipbuilding gets booster shot in legislative chambers

Friday, September 24, 1999
The Conferees on the Defense Authorization Bill, S.1059, for fiscal year 2000 wrapped up their conference after providing "Extended Lease" authority of 20 years or more to the Secretary of the Navy for the services of non-combatant ships, and rejecting an attempt by Senator John McCain (R-AZ) to repeal the three-year waiting period before foreign-built ships are eligible to carry preference cargo. The House Armed Services Committee has been working for three years to provide the Secretary of the Navy the authority to enter into long-term leases of the services of newly constructed non-combatant ships as an alternative to procuring the ships in the Shipbuilding and Conversion Account. This effort, championed by Representatives Herb Bateman (R-VA); Neil Abercrombie (D-HI); Duncan Hunter (R-CA); and Norman Sisisky (D-VA), had failed to receive the support of the Senate until this year when Senators Olympia Snowe (R-ME); Mary Landrieu (D-LA); and Trent Lott (R-MS) lent their support to the measure. Section 1014 of the House Armed Services Committee bill, H.R. 1401, will give the Secretary of the Navy the authority to lease commercial type ships required to meet a multitude of DOD missions if the Secretary can demonstrate to Congress the merits of leasing rather than purchasing. Congressmen Herb Bateman (R-VA) and Gene Taylor (D-MS) led the charge in the House to prevent a proposal by Senator John McCain (R-AZ) from being enacted in conference that would have repealed the three-year waiting period before foreign-built ships were eligible to carry government food aid. The overwhelming opposition to this proposal by the House, and Senators John Warner (R-VA), Chairman of the Armed Services Committee, Olympia Snowe (R-ME); and Rick Santorum (R-PA) speaks volumes to Congress' commitment to a strong shipbuilding industrial base and U.S.-flag merchant marine as dedicated transportation providers of taxpayer food aid to countries in need. Had this waiver been adopted, several ships that were recently constructed by Avondale Industries and Newport News Shipbuilding would have been put at an economic disadvantage with dumped overseas-built ships. Excerpted, in part, from the Sept. 3 1999 edition of American Shipbuilder, which is published by the Amercian Shipbuilding Association.

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