The column below reflects the views of the author, and these opinions are neither endorsed nor supported by WisOpinion.com.
The U.S. Navy made the right choice to support Made in Wisconsin shipbuilding by selecting Wisconsin and Marinette to build the new Frigate. As President Trump drops in to Marinette this week to claim credit for this Wisconsin win, it’s important to recognize that the Navy awarded this contract to Fincantieri Marinette Marine because it was the most competitive design, offering the most capability at the greatest benefit to the Navy and American taxpayers. This contract award is a testament to the caliber and dedication of our Wisconsin shipyard workers and will bring thousands of new jobs to Marinette. But in this time of economic uncertainty, the President should go one step further and finish the job for our state by ensuring that a Wisconsin company and Wisconsin workers build the engines that will power these ships.
Wisconsin has a rich history in shipbuilding, going as far back as the 1940’s when 28 submarines were built in Manitowoc — 25 of which went on to see combat in WWII. The Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) program revitalized shipbuilding in Marinette in the late-2000’s. However, the jobs and economic growth it brought with it were not a foregone conclusion at the inception of the program in the early 2000’s. The Navy originally intended to move from building two different ships at two yards to only one variant of the ship, possibly the design from Alabama. It took deliberate action in 2010 from the Obama-Biden Administration and the Navy to ensure that half of the ships would be built in Wisconsin because that made the most sense based on cost and capability of the Marinette shipyard. This action by the previous administration long before President Trump took office ensured that Marinette would be competitive for future Navy programs, like the Frigate. Now we have an opportunity to ensure that this legacy of building and supplying the Navy continues in future decades.
Wisconsin shipbuilding suppliers could use the same common sense action from the Trump Administration to ensure Wisconsin-built engines are included in a Wisconsin-built ship, ensuring a healthy domestic industrial base into the future. Otherwise, suppliers will continue to be pushed out by foreign manufacturers who have long sought access to the Navy market. Buy America requirements for the construction of ships are strong and have helped American shipyards succeed in producing ships that outclass foreign navies. However, the same requirements are not in place for the components that make up all Navy ships, including the diesel engines that power the ship and its systems. I have long pushed to restore Buy America requirements, and last year secured new requirements that domestic components must be included on Navy auxiliary ships. Congress was wise to require that the Frigate be 100% American made, with 100% American components by the 11th ship in the program. In order to meet that milestone, a decision will have to be made soon on which engine will be selected. Fairbanks Morse of Beloit, a Wisconsin manufacturer I have long supported, has a competitive option for the Navy to choose. Their proposal would provide the power and capabilities needed for the Frigate’s next generation systems and radars the Navy wants in the future, and it could be built right here in Wisconsin.
While we welcome a visit by the President to see the hard work that has been going into Wisconsin shipbuilding for decades, we also look for him to finish the job and reward Wisconsin workers by making sure Made in Wisconsin ships are powered by engines built in Wisconsin.
— Baldwin, D-Madison, represents Wisconsin in the U.S. Senate.