Politics, Shipbuilding and $9 Billion Plus

Austal USA’s design of its proposed Navy Frigate

2020 is a big election year in the U.S. and for Mobile-based Austal USA, which hopes to win a $9 billion-plus contract to build a new frigate for the U.S. Navy.

According to a story by AP News, the state of Wisconsin — with 10 electoral votes to Alabama’s 9 in the 2020 presidential election — is using its political leverage to swing the Navy contract away from Austal and over to rival bidder Fincantieri Marinette Marine, an Italian corporation that would build the vessels at a shipyard in Marinette, Wisconsin.

Other contenders and their shipyard locations are: Bath Iron Works, in Maine and Huntington Ingalls, in Mississippi. Lockheed Martin dropped out of the shipbuilding contest at the same time the Navy named Lockheed as the integration and test agent for  the frigate program.

AP reports that a bipartisan group of 54 representatives from the Wisconsin state Assembly recently sent a letter to President Donald Trump urging him to steer the mammoth contract to Wisconsin.

Wisconsin holds both Republican and Democratic primaries next month and will be the host state for the 2020 Democratic Convention, in Milwaukee. Recent polls in Wisconsin have Trump and Democratic candidate Joe Biden running neck and neck.

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Navy officials took final proposals for the new frigate under final assessment in 2019 and say they expect to pick a winner in fiscal 2020.

The first contract is for 10 ships, estimated at a price tag of around $900 million each, and the Navy says it intends to go on to contract for at least 10 more.

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