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Corruption Chronicles

Navy’s $40 Billion War Ship Boondoggle

American taxpayers will continue funding a controversial program involving a fleet of Navy warships that have been plagued by significant deficiencies and embarrassing mechanical problems despite their titanic (no pun intended) $480 million price tag.

So what if the sophisticated 3,000-ton warships don’t work correctly, the Navy plans to keep buying them, according to a recently published federal report. It is part of a $40 billion plan launched in 2010 to purchase 52 Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) that operate in shallow waters countering threats like terrorism and pirates. Its three primary missions are surface warfare, mine countermeasures and anti-submarine warfare.

But the first few ships to hit the water have suffered issues considered to be quite serious for such military vessels, according to the federal audit. The probe questions the Navy’s continued investment in the sea frames despite evidence that their “anticipated capabilities have degraded over time.” Just recently, one of the new warships, the USS Freedom, got stranded in the South China Sea after its diesel engines malfunctioned. 

The embarrassing incident could not have come at a worse time, according to the news agency that reported the story, because the Navy is hitting Congress up for more money to buy these defective vessels. More than a dozen are already on order and the Navy wants Congress to approve doling out $1.79 billion for four more in 2014. It’s like there’s no end to this madness unless Congress takes action.

In fact, the federal probe, conducted by the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, recommends just that: “…Congress should consider restricting funding for further ships until the Navy completes several studies about future LCS designs and capabilities,” the GAO writes in its report. Of course, that doesn’t mean it’s going to happen. Exposés like this surface all the time about scandal-plagued projects that keep getting taxpayer dollars.

In this particular case the faulty vessels are manufactured by politically-connected companies that have deployed an army of lobbyists to Washington to keep the project alive. The firms have employed 142 lobbyists, according to the news story mentioned above, and their employees and Political Action Committees (PACs) have contributed “particularly heavily” to members of a House subcommittee that essentially has the power to keep the project alive.


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