Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King, alongside five lawmakers from other states, proposed a bipartisan bill Wednesday that includes $25 billion to boost construction and maintenance at shipyards like Bath Iron Works and the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery.

The Supplying Help to Infrastructure in Ports, Yards, and America’s Repair Docks (SHIPYARD) Act of 2021 designates $21 billion for the Navy’s four public shipyards in Maine, Virginia, Hawaii and Washington, $2 billion for major Navy private new construction shipyards, and $2 billion for Navy private repair shipyards, according to a statement released Wednesday.

If the legislation passes, BIW, a subsidiary of General Dynamics, would be one of the roughly seven major “new construction shipyards” that would be eligible for the total of $2 billion the bill provides. Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery would be included in the $21 billion set aside for the country’s public shipyards.

The funding can be used to “optimize, improve and rebuild shipyard facilities, electrical infrastructure, environmental systems, and the equipment of public and private shipyards in the U.S. that support the U.S. Navy fleet,” according to a press statement released Wednesday.

In a statement Wednesday, Collins and King argued strong and continued financial support helps grow the nation’s naval fleet and supports Maine’s economy.

“The contributions of these yards are absolutely essential to the Navy’s ability to operate, and create thousands of good-paying jobs across Maine — both on-site and with contractors who provide additional support,” King wrote. “As the Navy seeks to grow its fleet to address an array of challenges across the globe, and the associated maintenance requirements continue to expand, it is absolutely essential that we provide these shipyards with the modern tools and technologies they need to meet growing demand.”

Collins touted the country’s need for a robust Navy that rivals those of the nation’s adversaries. She named China’s navy as the foremost threat to the U.S. Navy.

“If we are serious about the United States competing against and deterring China, we have to consider our vital defense infrastructure,” Collins wrote. “For example, the Navy has specifically identified a critical lack of dry dock capacity at our nation’s four public shipyards. Our bipartisan legislation would support infrastructure improvements at shipyards across the country to help reduce maintenance backlogs, increase safety and efficiency, and accommodate growth to counter China’s growing naval ambitions.”

Aside from supporting and growing the Navy’s fleet, Collins and King stated continued funding also maintains the country’s industrial base of skilled shipbuilders.

“The importance of our naval assets to our national security and global stability has never been greater, which is why it is so critical that our defense industrial base has the capacity to build and maintain a larger fleet,” Collins wrote. “I have long advocated for modernization of Portsmouth Naval Shipyard and Bath Iron Works in Maine to help the highly skilled employees continue to successfully carry out their essential missions in modern, streamlined facilities.”

“We are grateful for the continued efforts of our Congressional delegation to invest in infrastructure that enables us to modernize and accelerate the delivery of ships to the Navy,” BIW leadership wrote in a statement Wednesday. “The nation’s shipyards are critical for our national security and the economy, and should be part of the national conversation about infrastructure investment.”

This proposed bill comes one month after Maine’s legislative delegation and four Mississippi lawmakers urged the newly confirmed secretary and deputy secretary of defense to increase shipbuilding spending, again to maintain both national security and the country’s industrial base.

BIW is known for building and providing maintenance support for Arleigh Burke-class destroyers. The company has a backlog of 11 Arleigh Burke-class destroyers and one Zumwalt-class destroyer to build for the Navy in the next six years, over half of which are under construction, BIW President Dirk Lesko wrote in a report last month.

Meanwhile the shipyard is continuing hiring efforts to help speed up construction efforts and replace retiring shipbuilders. The company hired and trained nearly 1,800 employees in 2019 and added about 1,000 more last year, bringing the shipyard’s total workforce to roughly 6,900, according to BIW Spokesperson David Hench. The company is aiming to hire another 2,650 employees by the end of this year.


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