On Friday, June 29, our newspaper carried two stories that impact the Marinette and Menominee areas as well as communities beyond our county boundary lines. A Page One story under the banner headline focused on Navy Secretary Richard Spencer’s visit to the Fincantieri Marinette Marine shipyard. The second story ran on page eight of the first section and dealt with the $675 billion military budget approved by congress. 

Spencer, like Navy secretaries in the past, inspected the local shipyard to get a first-hand glimpse of how a skilled workforce functions in the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) program. He liked what he saw and was not bashful when it came to heaping praise on shipyard employees. Spencer was accompanied by his wife, Polly, who is the sponsor of LCS-27 Nantucket, which is under construction.

Marinette Marine and its well-known partner, Lockheed Martin, a power player in military contract work, have built five ships that have been put in the hands of the U.S. Navy. Two more are scheduled to be delivered this year.

“It’s truly great to see what is being produced up here with the American worker,” Spencer told reporters during his inspection tour. “This country should really be proud of what everyone is doing up here for national defense,” he added.

Like other top military officials have stated in the past, Mr. Secretary emphasized the importance of the LCS program to the Navy. He reminded shipyard workers and others in attendance that the LCS program is one of the major programs for battle platforms for the U.S. Navy.

While Navy leaders have continually directed praise at the LCS program since its inception, some critics in Washington (mostly politicians) have hurled charges that the program is overpriced and low in its capabilities. Spencer doesn’t see it that way. He called the LCS program “one of our better performing ship programs, along with the Virginia (submarine) program.”

The words of praise certainly were encouraging for a proud workforce at the shipyard and to the hundreds of workers and supply contractors who are involved in the LCS program. And when the top man in the U.S. Navy is handing out orchids, our communities take great pride, too.

In an Associated Press story regarding the $675 billion military budget, which had bipartisan support, the story focused on a wide range of programs that will beef up our armed forces. And according to Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, our armed forces are in “a military readiness crisis.”

While the LCS program likely will be phased out in the next few years in favor of a slightly larger and better equipped (weapons) frigate program, Fincantieri Marinette Marine and Lockheed Martin are among the top five shipbuilders competing for the 20-frigate fleet. The bidding will be fierce.

We appreciate it when Secretary Spencer and other top military officials visit our shipyard and our community and say nice things about our workers.