March 15, 2010

Navy alters course, decides to build third DDG-1000


— By

Staff Writer

The Navy has reversed its course and decided to build a third DDG-1000 destroyer, which will be constructed at Bath Iron Works, U.S. Sen. Susan Collins said Monday.

Collins said the Department of Defense also will seek to reprogram funds from other accounts to lay the groundwork for restarting the DDG-51, or Arleigh Burke, destroyer program.

Collins, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said she was informed of the Navy's decision during a telephone call from Navy Secretary Donald Winter.

In a telephone interview, Collins, R-Maine, said that if the Navy had not changed its mind about a previous decision to truncate the program at two Zumwalt-class destroyers, it could have created ''a devastating gap'' in the work production schedule at BIW.

''What I have always wanted to avoid is a gap in work at Bath,'' Collins said. ''The new Navy plan will avoid any disruptions in BIW's workload. It's great news for BIW.''

U.S. Rep. Tom Allen, a Democrat representing Maine's 1st District and Collins' opponent in this November's Senate race, said the Navy's decision is a response to political pressure more than anything else.

''It's clear to me that for national security reasons, the Navy wants to build more DDG-51s,'' Allen said Monday night. ''The emerging threat is from more sophisticated missiles, and the DDG-51 is better equipped to handle them.''

Allen also said that the workload at BIW will remain stable no matter which ship the Navy asks it to build.

As it stands now, Bath will build two Zumwalt-class destroyers, while its competitor, Northrop Grumman's Ingalls of Pascagoula, Miss., will build one. BIW is scheduled to begin raw material fabrication on the first Zumwalt in October.

Just one month ago, the Navy said it was going to pull the plug on the Zumwalt line at two ships. But in a letter dated Aug. 18, Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England told Collins and other senators that construction of a third DDG-1000 would ''provide stability of the industrial base'' while allowing the Navy the opportunity to develop advanced surface-ship technologies that could be incorporated into future destroyer designs.

England did not commit to building any specific warship after the third Zumwalt, saying only that the Navy would continue to assess threats and build ships that meet the nation's security needs.

BIW has made its mark over the years, churning out a long line of DDG-51s, or Arleigh Burke destroyers. It must deliver five more of those, with the last scheduled to go to the Navy in 2011.

BIW spokesman Jim DeMartini said the shipyard, which employs 5,900, fully supports the construction of another DDG-1000.

But, DeMartini added, ''What is important to BIW is a stable workload that will allow us to plan for the future and effectively balance the work that must be accomplished.''

Despite the shift in shipbuilding plans, the Navy's latest proposal depends on funding approval from Congress. The Senate version of the defense spending bill includes full funding -- $2.6 billion-- for the third DDG-1000, Collins said, but the House version does not contain such funding.

Allen responded by saying that there is no need to panic. He said it's unfair for Collins to be criticizing House action when members are not even close to voting on a final resolution.

''BIW builds great ships. They can build DDG-1000s or they can build DDG-51s. It's misleading to suggest that only the DDG-1000s are appropriate,'' Allen said.

''I believe we ought to be building the ships the Navy wants, and they want to go back to (building) the DDG-51s.''

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

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