Sen. Kohl sees approval of contract for Marinette Marine

By Paul Gores, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Sen. Herb Kohl said Thursday it won’t take additional funding — just approval by Congress to change the contract-awarding process — for the Navy to offer two contracts at once for construction of a new type of warship, setting the stage for the creation of thousands of jobs in Wisconsin.

If the lame-duck Congress makes the change for the first phase of production of its littoral combat ship, or LCS, by mid-December, Wisconsin’s Marinette Marine Corp. estimates it would add 1,000 employees to make 10 of the ships by 2015. In addition, Kohl said, another 5,000 jobs could be generated among companies that supply parts and services needed to produce the ships.

Kohl made his comments Thursday morning amid a crowd of employees inside DRS Power & Control Technologies Inc. in Milwaukee, which makes electronic equipment for the ship.

“The cost that was legislated and passed in Congress is not increased, but they have to change the legislation to say the award will be made to two firms instead of one, which is a minor kind of change,” Kohl said. “And that’s why we don’t have any great concerns about it being done.”

Currently, Marinette Marine and its partner, Lockheed Martin Corp., are competing against Alabama shipbuilders Austal USA and its partner, General Dynamics Corp., for an all-or-nothing contract for 10 ships.

But the Navy, which likes the designs and the current price the two teams have bid for the work, now wants to award a 10-ship contract to each. The Navy hasn’t disclosed the bids for the shipbuilding contracts, but Congress has capped the price at $480 million per ship.

Under the existing contract-awarding procedure, one of the two teams would get a 10-ship contract. Then a second shipbuilder that is not one of the two original bidders would make nine more ships from the winning design starting in 2012.

James T. LaCosse, the LCS program manager for Marinette Marine, said the company now has about 850 employees.

“We would be adding over 1,000 jobs,” LaCosse said.

Alan S. Perlstein, vice president and general manager at DRS, said the company’s electrical equipment is used on all Navy ships. Work on the new warship already has led the company to hire workers, he said.

“In the last year and a half, we’ve gone from 300 people to 408 people, expecting that we will continue to build LCS’,” Perlstein said.

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