USNS Henry Eckford and USNS Benjamin Isherwood near Norfolk. (Wikimedia Commons)
WASHINGTON, DC (WUSA) --- The government is saying goodbye to two large oil tankers that it ordered during the Reagan administration, spent more than $300 million to build, and never finished or put in service.
The ships, the Benjamin Isherwood and the Henry Eckford, are being destroyed this month after having spent the last several years as part of the so-called ghost fleet of rotting and antiquated naval and merchant ships moored in the James River in Newport News.
"Well, now we know why they're called ghost fleets. They haunt taxpayers with costs for decades and, once we see the cost for getting rid of them, we all want to drop dead," said Pete Sepp of the National Taxpayers Union.
The ships were to have built by a shipyard in Pennsylvania but it went out of business before they were completed.
Another shipyard gave it a shot but reportedly didn't meet Navy specifications.
As the long journey to completion was underway, the Exxon Valdez oil spill soured the government on single-hulled tankers. The Isherwood and the Eckford are both single-hulled tankers.
"Clearly, the US government and the Defense Department, in particular, has to practice better management of its properties, its supplies, its spare parts, everything. Otherwise, we're going to keep hearing examples like the Isherwood and the Eckford coming up time and again," Sepp told 9News Now.
"$300 million is a lot of money, even with a government that is trillions of dollars in debt. That could buy a lot of body armor, a lot of baby formula. It could even pay down some of the borrowing we've been engaging in.
"Members of Congress have to look at not only the money that is about to be spent on programs in the future, but on everything that's been wasted so far. There are a lot of clues about managing the assets we have way better, spending a lot less money on them, and, most importantly, not spending the money in the first place where it isn't warranted," Sepp said.