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Amid political squabbles, frigate transfer bill passed in House

Apr. 11, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
A number of foreign navies are eager to acquire ex-U.S. Navy frigates, but politics is preventing some allies, like Turkey, from receiving any more. Here, the Turkish frigate Gelibolu, ex-USS Reid, approaches Doha, Qatar, on March 24.
A number of foreign navies are eager to acquire ex-U.S. Navy frigates, but politics is preventing some allies, like Turkey, from receiving any more. Here, the Turkish frigate Gelibolu, ex-USS Reid, approaches Doha, Qatar, on March 24. (Christopher P. Cavas/Staff)
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WASHINGTON — The Navy’s frigate force is rapidly shrinking as the 1980s-era ships are taken out of service. The Navy wants to transfer the ships to friendly nations for further service, and several nations are eager to have them.

But in recent years, congressional politics have made some of the proposed moves overly controversial, and measures to approve the transfers have run afoul of partisan politics, particularly where Turkey and Pakistan are concerned.

But on April 7, the House passed a bill approving the transfer of eight frigates — four to Taiwan, two to Thailand and two to Mexico. Two of the ships named in the bill already have left service, with the other six set to leave the U.S. fleet in 2015.

The bill now lies with the Senate, where it might have come to a vote before the body adjourned for a two-week recess. As of April 10, however, it appeared the opportunity for quick action would pass, leaving the measure to be taken up at a later date.

The House-sponsored bill eliminated a Senate bill introduced in November that included the same ships, plus three more for Pakistan — along with a series of conditions that country has recoiled from meeting.

Forces in the Senate have balked as well at providing Pakistan with the ships, and a hold — reportedly from Sen. Rand Paul R-Ky., — has been placed on the bill.

Similar squabbles led to another frigate transfer bill dying with the previous Congress. That bill would have provided more frigates for Turkey, which already operates eight ex-U.S. frigates.

The latest House bill avoids those questions and centers the move on Taiwan.

“The transfer to Taiwan of retired U.S. Navy frigates is an important part of the US commitment to Taiwan’s security,” Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Va., a co-sponsor of the bill, said in a statement. “The administration and Congress must continue to find ways to enhance Taiwan’s self-defense capabilities.”

The bill would only approve a ship’s transfer should the specified nation and the US reach agreement. It does not indicate such a move is a done deal.

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