U.S. Navy Secretary: 'We have great faith' in BIW

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U.S. Navy Secretary Richard Spencer makes a statement ahead of his tour of Bath Iron Works Friday. All four members of Maine’s congressional delegation – U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree and Bruce Poliquin, and U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King – turned out to welcome Spencer to the shipyard.

BATH — The secretary of the U.S. Navy reaffirmed the federal government’s commitment to Bath Iron Works on Friday and said the military must work with shipyards to expand capacity as the Navy seeks to grow its fleet.

“We have great faith in Bath – Bath built, best built – and we look forward to this relationship growing and even becoming stronger from a base that is historically monumental,” Secretary Richard Spencer said.

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Spencer was taking his first tour of BIW one day after the Navy announced contracts for two additional destroyers at the shipyard. The contracts provide funding for the fifth Arleigh Burke-class destroyer as part of a five-ship contract awarded to BIW in 2013 as well as for a sixth ship negotiated by the Navy, BIW parent company General Dynamics and Maine’s congressional delegation.

Speaking with reporters before his tour, Spencer said the Navy “definitely” needs a larger fleet given the global threats and that moving toward a 355-ship Navy (up from fewer than 300 ships now) will soon be the “marching orders” from Congress.

But Spencer said the Navy has a responsibility “to work with our suppliers as a partnership” to hold down costs and ensure the industrial base has the capacity to build additional ships. There are currently six destroyers at various stages of construction in Bath – four Arleigh Burke-class ships and two Zumwalt-class stealth destroyers.

“This is where we are going to be working alongside Bath and General Dynamics, the parent (company) who is also a prime supplier, to see how in fact we grow going forward,” Spencer said. “We can’t simply sit here and mandate, ‘We want ships built.’ We have to understand what the actual industrial base can support and where capacity is. Where we can help to expand capacity in lockstep with our suppliers, our contractors, we will do so.”

All four members of Maine’s congressional delegation – U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King and U.S. Reps. Chellie Pingree and Bruce Poliquin – joined Spencer at BIW on Friday. With roughly 6,000 workers, BIW is one of Maine’s largest private employers and is one of only two shipyards that build the guided-missile destroyers that are considered the “workhorses” of the Navy fleet.

This story will be updated.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, speaks at a news conference at Bath Iron Works, a shipbuilding facility in Bath, Maine, Friday, Sept. 29, 2017. Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, speaks at a news conference at Bath Iron Works, a shipbuilding facility in Bath, Maine, Friday, Sept. 29, 2017. Bath Iron Works president Dirk Lesko, center, leaves a news conference after refusing to take questions from reporters during a visit to BIW by Navy Secretary Richard Spencer, right, Friday, Sept. 29, 2017, in Bath, Maine. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Rep. Bruce Poliquin, R-Maine, follow Lesko. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, speaks at a news conference at Bath Iron Works in Bath, Maine, Friday, Sept. 29, 2017. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, R-Maine, speaks at a news conference at Bath Iron Works in Bath, Maine, Friday, Sept. 29, 2017. Navy Secretary Richard Spencer speaks at a news conference as he pays his first visit to Bath Iron Works, a shipbuilding facility in Bath, Maine, Friday, Sept. 29, 2017. Bath Iron Works president Dirk Lesko, background left, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, listen to Spencer’s remarks.

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