PORTLAND (AP) – U.S. senators from Maine and 15 other states are urging President Bush to reject what they call a “winner-take-all” competition proposal under consideration to produce the cutting-edge DD (X) destroyer program.

In a letter to the President, U.S. Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, both R-Maine, argued that a competition between Bath Iron Works in Bath and Northrop Grumman Ship Systems in Pascagoula, Miss., would likely delay the program, increase its costs and worsen a 15-year reduction in U.S. shipbuilding jobs.

The letter said that shipbuilding jobs across the country are down by 75 percent.

“Instability in the DD (X) program at this time could further exacerbate the permanent exodus of skilled men and women from the last remaining shipyards that produce our naval fleet,” they wrote.

“We believe that any decision to pursue a winner-take-all strategy for DDX is ill-advised” until the Department of Defense submits the findings from its review to Congress, they wrote.

The letter also was signed by Sens. Trent Lott and Thad Cochran, both R-Miss.; John Warner, R-Va.; Kit Bond and Jim Talent, both R-Mo.; Mary Landrieu, D-La.; David Vitter, R-La.; Arlen Specter, R-Pa.; Joe Lieberman, D-Conn.; Richard Shelby, R-Ala.; Jack Reed, D-R.I.; Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.; Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga.; Edward Kennedy, D-Mass.; Diane Feinstein, D-Calif.; John Cornyn, R-Texas; Bill Nelson, D-Fla.; and Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

Officials have said the Navy is moving to have its next-generation destroyer built at a single shipyard. That would be a shift from the current system that has both yards involved in the design and construction of the DD (X).

BIW is one of the Maine’s largest private employers, with about 6,200 workers.

Northrop Grumman Ship Systems, formerly Ingalls Shipbuilding, is Mississippi’s largest private employer with more than 12,000 workers and operations in Pascagoula and Gulfport.

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