Monday January 06, 2014 | 02:07 PM

WASHINGTON – Members of Maine’s congressional delegation are continuing to push for a $100 million inclusion in the federal budget to help close a funding shortfall for a destroyer to be built at Bath Iron Works.

Last summer, the Navy awarded BIW a $2.8 billion contract to build four Arleigh Burke-class DDG-51 destroyers through fiscal year 2017. A contract for an additional five ships was awarded to Huntington Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula, Miss., the competing shipyard to General Dynamics-owned BIW.

The Navy included an option for a fifth ship at BIW – valued at roughly $700 million – contingent on Congress and the Pentagon finding about $300 million that the Navy said was lost as a result of the sequestration budget cuts.

The defense budget authorization bill passed by Congress in December includes $100 million toward the fifth ship – an allocation that could allow the Navy to exercise its option on the ship. But as part of the complicated congressional budgeting process, that money has to be included in the final spending bill being hashed out now by members of the House and Senate appropriations committees.

U.S. Reps. Chellie Pingree and Mike Michaud wrote late last week to the two top members of the House Subcommittee on Defense Appropriations requesting that they support the $100 million. The Senate Appropriations Committee had already signed off on the additional money for BIW.

“The DDG-51 is a workhorse of the fleet and restoring the funding for the 10th ship in the multiyear procurement program is essential to making sure workers at the yards building these ships stay on the job and we maintain the individual shipbuilding capacity that is critical to maintaining the Navy’s readiness,” Pingree and Michaud wrote.

Pingree is a member of the full House Appropriations Committee but does not serve on the Defense Subcommittee. Pingree is married to S. Donald Sussman, majority owner of Maine Today Media, which publishes the Portland Press Herald, the Kennebec Journal and the Morning Sentinel.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, is a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense and is well-positioned to influence the final version of the final defense budget bill. Collins was successful in inserting the $100 million in the Senate Appropriations Committee version of the bill.

Maine Sen. Angus King, an independent, worked as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee to include the $100 million in the National Defense Authorization Act that passed Congress last month.

The Appropriations Committees must complete work on the dozen budget bills by Jan. 15th or pass a temporary spending bill in order to avoid another government shutdown.

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Kevin Miller is Washington bureau chief for the Portland Press Herald and MaineToday Media. He has worked as a journalist in Maine for 6 ½ years, covering the environment, politics and the State House. Before arriving in Maine, he wrote about politics, government and education for newspapers in Virginia and Maryland.
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