Congressional chaos costs Navy millions

Debt Supercommittee

Having failed to produce timely defense spending bills or avoid a chaotic end to a year-long march toward sequestration, the recently deceased 112th Congress also failed to approve a normally prosaic measure allowing the transfers of old Navy ships to friendly navies.

Failure of the transfer bill means the Navy will now need to spend millions of dollars, U.S. ship repairers won’t get a hefty dose of foreign work, and allied countries won’t have the chance — at least for now — to avail themselves of surplus U.S. Navy warships.

At issue is the Naval Vessel Transfer Act of 2012, a short, straightforward bill that lays out, by name and hull number, which ships the U.S. wants to transfer, what countries they would go to, and the terms of the transfer — loan, grant or sale. The measure long was a regular part of the annual defense authorization bills, but for the past few years has been submitted separately in order to give congressional foreign relations committees a chance to consider them.

This year’s proposal, to transfer 10 Oliver Hazard Perry-class ships to Mexico, Taiwan, Thailand and Turkey, was sent to Capitol Hill on June 4 and referred to the House Foreign Affairs Committee. There it languished for nearly seven months until New Year’s Eve when — only because Congress was in session to debate the so-called fiscal cliff situation — it was brought to the floor of the House for debate and a vote.

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