Congressional negotiators have reached a final compromise on the 2007 Defense Authorization Bill that funds the first two of seven DD(X) Navy destroyers that will be built.

The compromise secures full funding of $3.4 billion for the program and ensures the simultaneous construction of the two ships beginning in 2007, according to Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

That’s good news for Bath Iron Works in Maine and Northrop Grumman’s Ingalls shipyard in Mississippi, which have been tapped to build the ships.

Collins said it is critical to U.S. national security to maintain a “dual lead ship strategy” for the naval fleet.

“This agreement will maintain the DD(X) program schedule and the planned workload at Bath Iron Works,” Collins said. “BIW’s future is tied to the construction of the DD(X), and that is why I am so pleased that the Senate’s position prevailed in these.”

The Senate spending bill had authorized construction of two destroyers beginning next year, one each at BIW and Ingalls. The House bill called for a single ship to be built beginning in 2007, presumably at Ingalls.

Committee negotiators in the Senate and House on Friday agreed to a compromise that sided with the Senate version of the bill. The full Senate and House are expected to give their final approvals to the Defense Authorization bill before Congress recesses later this month.

U.S. Rep. Tom Allen, D-Maine, said construction of Navy ships at two shipyards is essential to maintaining a competitive shipbuilding industrial base.

“This is a welcome endorsement of the two-lead ship plan as requested by the Navy and supported by the shipbuilding industry and the entire Maine delegation,” he said.

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