The U.S. Navy is expected to request two Arleigh Burke-class destroyers in its 2021 budget, which Bath Iron Works can compete to build. If approved, the two ships would inch toward President Trump’s proposed 355-ship naval fleet, a goal supported by Maine lawmakers. Kathleen O’Brien/The Times Record

BATH — The U.S. Navy is expected to request an Arleigh Burke-class (DDG-51) destroyer, which Bath Iron Works can complete to build, in place of a submarine proposed in its 2021 budget.

First reported by Bloomberg News, the extra destroyer would double the Navy’s drafted request of one destroyer. If approved, the additional destroyer would inch the Navy closer to the Trump Administration’s 355-ship naval fleet goal, which Congress approved in the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act.

Bath Iron Works has ongoing contracts for 11 Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, some of which are under construction.

Considered the workhorse of the Navy, Arleigh Burke-class destroyers are built only by BIW and its main competitor, Mississippi-based Huntington Ingalls Shipbuilding. The ships, which coming with a $1.5 billion to $1.7 billion price tag, measure more than 500 feet in length and carry a crew of roughly 300 sailors. The most recent destroyer, the future USS Daniel Inouye, was christened in June 2019 and is the 37th ship of its class to be built by the shipyard.

In December 2019 the Department of Defense recommended reducing the number of Arleigh Burke-class destroyers built for the Navy between 2021 and 2025 from 12 ships to seven, a shipbuilding budget cut of about $9.4 billion.

Should the Pentagon’s recommendation be approved, the Navy’s warship fleet would shrink to 287 in 2025 from its existing fleet of 293 ships. Lawmakers, however, have been highly critical of the proposed cuts. Maine Rep. Chellie Pingree said the likelihood of Congress passing that reduction is, “basically zero.”

In a joint statement, Maine Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King wrote: “It is encouraging that the Navy has reconsidered its misguided proposal to pursue significantly less funding for destroyers in its upcoming budget request. Increasing the size of our fleet to 355 ships is vital to our national security, and we strongly urged the Defense Secretary to continue to support a robust shipbuilding budget. We look forward to closely reviewing the final text of the Navy’s request once it is released.”

Maine Democratic Reps. Pingree and Jared Golden sent a joint letter Jan. 13 to Secretary of Defense Mark Esper expressing concerns over the fleet reduction pitch.

“Such reductions in naval procurement would endanger our national security and would cause substantial, long-term harm to the health and readiness of the shipbuilding defense industrial base,” Pingree and Golden wrote.

The recommended cut from the Pentagon came days after Congress passed the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act, which directs how federal funds should or should not be used by the Department of Defense.

The 2020 National Defense Authorization Act was passed in tandem with a defense spending bill, which allocates $5.1 billion to build three Arleigh Burke-class destroyers in the next year. BIW can compete for those contracts. The bill also includes $390 million above the president’s budget request for the Arleigh Burke advanced procurement, which amounts to a down payment for an extra ship next year.

“Ultimately, Congress is responsible for determining the authorization and funding for shipbuilding,” said Collins and King. “Through our positions on the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee and the Senate Armed Services Committee, we will continue to advocate for the resources our military needs and support the hardworking men and women at BIW who build the highest quality ships for our Navy.”

To help win contracts and build ships on schedule, BIW is in the midst of a hiring push. The shipyard currently employs 6,700 and is planning to hire an additional 1,000 workers in 2020, then add another 600 to 800 workers in 2021, according to Jon Mason, director of human resources for BIW.


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