Wednesday, April 23, 2014
BATH — A Senate subcommittee is proposing $100 million for a fifth destroyer to be built at Bath Iron Works in Maine and is offering assurances that will allow the Navy to move forward with the contract while the remaining money is secured.
In this 2011 file photo, the destroyer USS Spruance is shown under construction at Bath Iron Works. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, is pressing for funding to add another $100 million destroyer to BIW's contract.
Carl D. Walsh / Staff Photographer
Last month, the Navy awarded contracts for nine new DDG-51 Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, four of which would be built at BIW. Navy officials said BIW would likely get a contract for a fifth ship if Congress and the Pentagon could close a $304 million shortfall caused by the across-the-board spending cuts known as sequestration.
On Tuesday, Maine Sen. Susan Collins added language to a defense appropriations bill that would provide $100 million next fiscal year for the fifth ship at BIW. Collins also inserted language that acknowledges the shortfall and commits to additional funding in the future, allowing the Navy to exercise the option on the final ship.
"Because of the savings generated through economies of scale ... this will be one of the least expensive DDG-51s that the Navy purchases," Collins said. "This is a win for the Navy, for taxpayers and for the hard-working men and women who build the ships that are so critical to protecting our nation."
The subcommittee's recommendation is expected to be considered by the Senate Appropriations Committee this week. There is no additional funding or language in the House version of the defense appropriations bill for the fifth destroyer for BIW, so any differences would have to be negotiated during a conference committee. As a senior Republican member of the Defense Subcommittee, Collins would likely be on the conference committee.
BIW is one of Maine's largest private employers, with 5,400 workers. It is building two DDG-51 destroyers and has built more than half of the 66 Arleigh Burke-class ships purchased by the Navy since 1985.
Jim DeMartini, spokesman for BIW, said the company recognizes that Tuesday's action was the first of multiple steps required before a contract for the fifth ship is awarded.
The destroyers are more than 500 feet long and carry a crew of more than 270 sailors. They are equipped with an array of missile, torpedo and machine gun systems plus two fully armed helicopters, according to the Navy.
If the funding comes through, the Navy hopes BIW will begin work on the ship in the next fiscal year.
On June 3, the Navy announced nine fixed-price contracts worth nearly $6.2 billion. Five went to the Huntington Ingalls Industries shipyard in Mississippi and four went to BIW. Adding a fifth destroyer at BIW would raise the value of the contracts at the Maine shipyard to $3.5 billion.
Kevin Miller can be contacted at 317-6256 or at email@example.com