KITTERY (AP) – The Pentagon won’t propose its next list of proposed military base closures for another two years, but efforts to spare the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard are already under way.

“The Maine and New Hampshire delegations stand united in helping the shipyard in any way we can,” U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said Monday.

Collins was one of five legislators who met with navy officials to discuss the Kittery shipyard’s future. Sens. Judd Gregg and John Sununu, and U.S. Rep. Jeb Bradley, all New Hampshire Republicans, and U.S. Rep. Tom Allen, D-Maine, also attended.

The last series of the base closings in 1995 did not affect the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard or the Brunswick Naval Air Station. But Loring Air Force Base in Limestone and Pease Air Force Base in Newington, N.H., were both closed during the 1990s.

The legislators said Monday that the Kittery shipyard is vital to the U.S. military because of its maintenance of the Navy’s submarine fleet.

“This is the most efficient yard in the country,” Allen said. “The people here have skills that are not replicated anywhere in the country.”

The 203-year-old facility is the only shipyard on the East Coast dedicated to maintaining and refueling Los Angeles-class nuclear submarines. Currently, it’s home to the USS Norfolk and Annapolis, which are undergoing refueling and maintenance.

The shipyard is waiting for Congress to act on a bill that would send another submarine, the USS Jacksonville, to the yard for refueling.

Later this month, two Coast Guard cutters will be permanently stationed in Kittery. The move, which will add to the Coast Guard’s presence in the Gulf of Maine, was considered a boon in the effort to prove the base’s value.

With a civilian work force of more than 4,000 people, the shipyard is one of the leading employers in the Maine-New Hampshire seacoast area.

“It’s a major player in the seacoast,” said Bill McDonough, who was commander of the yard in the 1970s and is now a member of the Shipyard Seacoast Association. “We’re talking high-tech, well-paying jobs.”

AP-ES-09-16-03 0216EDT

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