Sen. Levin’s Remarks at the Keel-Laying Ceremony for the Future USS Detroit

Thursday, November 8, 2012

WASHINGTON – Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., and his wife Barbara Levin will participate in the keel-laying ceremony for the future USS Detroit, a littoral combat ship, today at Marinette Marine Corporation Shipyard in Marinette, WI.  Mrs. Levin, the ship’s sponsor, will authenticate the keel and her initials will be welded into a sheet of the ship’s steel.

"Laying the keel" traditionally marks the beginning of a ship's construction. The tradition dates from the days when a single piece of wood, or later steel, served as the structural heart of a ship, and its placement marked the beginning of a shipbuilding project. Though modern warships are built in prefabricated sections, the ceremony still serves as the ceremonial beginning of a ship's construction.

Following are Sen. Levin’s remarks for the ceremony, as prepared for delivery:

Admiral Murdoch, Chuck [Goddard of Marinette Marine], Joe [North of Lockheed Martin], ladies and gentlemen, thank you for this important day for our Navy and for our nation, and, coincidentally, a very big day for this United States senator and his wife.

I also want to extend special thanks to Secretary Mabus, for his leadership of the Navy and of the LCS program, and for the decision to name this ship the USS Detroit.

It’s a great honor for Barb and me to be share this day with you, for many, many reasons.

I am honored to be here first because it gives me a chance to sit next to the talented woman who will serve as this ship’s sponsor. Barbara is my closest friend. She will be a tremendous sponsor for the USS Detroit, and a great supporter of her crew.

I am honored to be here because of the name this ship will carry. Barb and I have lived in Detroit all our lives. When Detroit hurts, so do we, and when it celebrates, it brings us great joy. Today is a day for celebration. Detroit is a proud, hard-working, tough, determined, resilient city, one that refuses to surrender, one unwilling to accept defeat. That’s a pretty good role model for a combat vessel. I know the sailors aboard her will be as proud of the USS Detroit’s namesake as our city will be of the ship and her crew.

I am honored because this ship will be the product of workers from two great states. Now, forgive me if I’m a little partial to Michigan here. If you know the history of the U.P., you know that in 1835, Michigan was shrewd enough to acquire Menominee and the rest of the Western U.P. from the Wisconsin Territory. “Acquire” might not quite be the right term – basically, we stole it, but we stole it fair and square.

While that means the USS Detroit will be built in Wisconsin, just across the Menominee River from our state, Michigan workers here will help carry on Michigan’s great legacy as an arsenal of democracy, a legacy earned during World War II.  And this ship demonstrates how both our great states are at the forefront of a manufacturing renaissance that is leading our nation’s economic recovery.

So thanks to the builders of the USS Detroit. I know you build sturdy ships here in Marinette, worthy of the brave men and women who sail them.

This will be the sixth USS Detroit in the history of our Navy. Ships bearing my hometown’s name have protected American and our interests in the waters off Brazil and off the coasts of China and Korea; shot down enemy planes attacking Pearl Harbor and witnessed the Japanese surrender in Tokyo Bay. All of us who call Detroit home are proud that once again, a USS Detroit will join her sister ships in flying America’s flag on the oceans of the world.

As heartwarming as this day is for me personally, far more important is the significance of this day, and what you build here, for our nation and for the Navy’s ability to defend us as we move through a turbulent era.

As chairman of the Armed Services Committee, I spend much of my time thinking about the national security challenges we face today, myriad of threats and, especially in the current fiscal environment, the limited resources we have to meet them. The USS Detroit and her sister ships in the Littoral Combat Ship family are not only uniquely capable of helping to meet those threats, but thanks to the innovative spirit of our Navy and its contractors, they will help us meet our fiscal challenges as well.

As global commerce grows, as more and more nations join the world marketplace, and as terrorists, criminals and rogue nations seek to create chaos and crisis, global security will increasingly depend on what happens in the world’s littoral zones – the meeting place of land and ocean that surrounds the continents. Here’s what Marine Lt. Gen Richard Mills wrote recently about the world’s littorals: “Increasingly, this is where the world’s transactions and interactions occur. This concentration of people, political power, and economic dynamism means that the littorals are where the world’s future crises will take place.” Now perhaps we can’t say with 100 percent certainty where the next crisis will emerge, but our military planners are right to see conflict in coastal zones as a contingency for which we must prepare, especially in light of the increasing importance of Asia to global commerce and to U.S. national security.

Potential adversaries know that too. They also know that they can exploit the importance, and the vulnerability, of these important geopolitical intersections by trying to turn them into chokepoints where they can disrupt the flow of goods and people.

The LCS program is a crucial part of our answer to that challenge. These ships are the flexible, adaptable multi-taskers of the seas. Whether the mission is combatting pirates, clearing mines, supporting troops on land from the sea, or bringing aid at times of natural disaster, they can be quickly reconfigured to the task. And thanks to the innovative acquisition strategy recommended by the Navy and approved by the Congress late last year, America’s taxpayers will get more of these ships, in less time, and for less money. That’s a victory for our defense and for good stewardship of precious taxpayer dollars.

We begin that victory today, by laying the keel that serves as the structural and symbolic heart and soul of a ship. Here is what this ship will carry across the world’s oceans: The sponsorship of the great love of my life. The labor of workers from two great states. The spirit of a great city. And a great nation’s beacon of liberty. May she serve long and well, and may her crews always come home to the embrace of a grateful nation.