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Senate Committee Debates Warship Funding This Week

May 21, 2012

WASHINGTON - The Senate Armed Services Committee takes up the new defense budget on Tuesday, with mark-ups scheduled until Thursday. One issue that's sure to come up is the Navy's newest warship. The watchdog group Project on Government Oversight (POGO) is urging the government to cancel a contract with Lockheed Martin to build the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS).

Ben Freeman is a national security investigator for POGO. He says the list of problems is long and troubling.

"You've got serious issues with cracking and with the internal piping, and the fire extinguishing system, too. There are a lot of pinprick cracks in these pipes that let salt water get on the equipment on the inside of this boat."

Another LCS design is being built by General Dynamics. Freeman says it has also had problems, but they were easier to fix. In addition to cost concerns, he says it's better to have only one ship design, in terms of training and maintenance efficiencies.

Keith Little, a spokesman for Lockheed Martin, calls POGO's information "outdated," and says bugs are to be expected in sea trials of any new ship.

"As the lead ship in a totally new class, the USS Freedom is providing important lessons learned that are being incorporated back into future ships."

Freeman says POGO started out in 1981 as the Project on Military Procurement. Since then, it has been instrumental in stopping procurement of the F-22 Raptor, built at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico. Freeman says the U.S. Air Force took delivery of its last F-22 Raptor from Lockheed Martin early this month.

"With all the pilots coming forward and with the issues of hypoxia and all the oxygen issues, we've been working behind the scenes. We may take a more vocal role in the next few weeks."

POGO says the F-22 has been an issue for years because of cost overruns and schedule delays.

Renee Blake/Beth Blakeman, Public News Service - NM