Action News Jax Investigates: New billion-dollar program could be cut by Washington

A brand new billion dollar program could see its future cut by Washington, D.C., which would mean fewer ships, sailors and fewer jobs for Mayport.

Naval leaders consider the Littoral combat ships (LCS) the future ship of the Navy and NS Mayport. Naval officers practice at a secure, virtual training center similar to a realistic video game at NB San Diego.

Action News Jax anchor John Bachman traveled to San Diego to experience the simulator firsthand to see what the LCS can do. Bachman took the ship out of Mayport, into open water and straight into a fire fight in an exercise.

The sound of the ship's engines are pumped in through speakers in the floor.

"These are Rolls-Royce controllers from the ship, so the touch and feel of this and push back (is) what you (would) feel on the ship," said Littoral Training Facility manager Joe Shifflett.

Gallery: Navy's newest combat ready ship

Lt. Sean Lewis piloted destroyers. He now trains a group of sailors how to operate the Navy's first big ship powered by water jets.

"Obviously capable ship. It's good at what it does," Lewis said.

A recently released government report calls into question the capabilities of the LCS. And a memo released by the secretary of defense suggests suspending funding for the program.

"Nothing has changed what we're doing here,” said LCS Fleet Commander Capt. Paul Young.

Young wouldn’t answer questions about concerns he may have with the capabilities of the ships. He instead referred Bachman to the Department of Defense response to the LCS report. The DOD agrees with some of the recommendations in the report, but not all.

US Rep. Ander Crenshaw is one of the ship’s biggest supporters, who plays a pivotal role in defense spending.

“The LCS program at Mayport is not in jeopardy,” said Crenshaw. “The LCS, littoral combat ship, is what the Navy calls the ship of the future.”

Mayport continues to prepare with eight LCS and 12 crews arriving over the next five years. The USS Little Rock is the first LCS to be built, and is expected to arrive later this year.

Young is in his office, which is in the new $16 million headquarters. Work will begin in the spring on a $23 million training facility, similar to the on in San Diego. Money has been approved by Congress.

The president will release next year's budget proposal Tuesday. If funding is cut for the LCS it could mean no more ships for Mayport beyond the eight already approved.

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