Chairman Warren G. Magnuson (D-Wash.) of the Senate Appropriations Committee got his way.
Because of a political minuet danced by the Navy and Todd shipyard, two of the six FFG7 frigates funded in the pending defense appropriations bill will be built in Mangnuson's hometown of Seattle.
The chairman had refused to clear the $132 billion measure for a Senate floor vote until he received a commitment that two of those ships, costing $200 million each, would be built in Tood's Seattle yard. Magnuson took that stand at a committee meeting last week.
Navy Undersecretary James R. Woolsey, in letters sent to Magnuson and other interested lawmakers yesterday and Wednesday night, committed his service to building three FFG7 frigates on the West Coast and three on the East Coast.
"He agrees," Woolsey wrote, referring to Navy Secretary Edward Hidalgo, who was in Hawaii Wednesday, "and I hereby confirm that it is the Navy's intention" to split the six-ship contract between the East and West coasts.
Hidalgo and Woolsey did not want to set a precedent by committing the Navy in writing in advance to building ships in specific yards. Procurement is supposed to be competitive. But the Navy's promise of a three-three split enabled Todd to close the political deal.
"Certainly we will be delighted to build two of these three units in our very splendid Seattle division," John T. Gilbride, chairman of Todd Shipyards Corp., wrote Magnuson.
The Navy had planned to contract with Todd to build three frigates in its Los Angeles yard. The other three would be built at Bath Iron Works in the home state of Democratic Sen. Edmund S. Muskie of Maine, chairman of the Senate Budget Committee.
Under the new arrangement, Gilbride went on, the third West Coast ship will "be built at our equally proficient Los Angeles division," and some additional Navy overhaul and repair work will go to the Los Angeles yard.