MARINETTE, Wis. (WFRV) - Today ship builders in Marinette got a visit from the U.S. Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus.
Crews at Marinette Marine are building four littoral combat ships.
But that program is being questioned in Washington, as budgets tighten.
Secretary Mabus had strong words today about the sequestration in Washington.
He called the rules used to cut spending mindless and dumb.
Mabus does not believe the LCS program should be put on hold, like some lawmakers have suggested. He says these ships serve a critical role in defense.
"I as secretary am doing everything i can to protect shipbuilding" Secretary Mabus says.
The navy wants to buy 52 of the high-speed warships over 15 years at a cost of more than 40 billion dollars.
"From the first ship to the time we get done with the 10th ship under this contract, will be half the price of what that first ship was. That is the kind of learning we are able to achieve here" explains Chuck Goddard, President & CEO of Marinette Marine Corporation.
However the program is under fire in Washington.
"We took a program that in fairness was not in great shape, at the very beginning, but thanks to partnership with industry we've driven the cost way down, almost half" Secretary Mabus explains.
Cost overruns and mechanical problems on the first ship in the fleet have lead several lawmakers including Senator John McCain to express concerns these ships might not perform as expected.
" We are spending time every day, every ship, every time we build a module we are learning from that. We are improving efficiencies" Goddard says.
LCS number 5, The Milwaukee, is expected to be ready for launch later this year. It's mast served as the backdrop for the secretary's visit.
"This is a ship we need in the navy and we need the entire number" says Secretary Mabus.
Despite the questions in Washington, Marinette Marine expects to add more than 150 people to its workforce in the next year.
They have a contract in hand for two more ships.
"I can't predict what congress is going to do. All I can do is work hard here to make sure that we continue to deliver these fine ships that the navy is very pleased with" Goddard says.
Two littoral combat ships built by Marinette Marine have already been delivered to the navy.
A company in Alabama is also helping fill the order.