Bath Iron Works, known for making Arleigh Burke-class destroyers for the Navy, could see a portion of the defense funding from the HEALS Act if it becomes law. Kathleen O’Brien/The Times Record

BATH — The Health, Economic Assistance, Liability Protection and Schools Act, or “HEALS Act” Senate Republicans proposed last week includes defense funding that could potentially go to Bath Iron Works, one of the state’s largest employers.

The $1 trillion HEALS Act package, a sequel to March’s Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act or the “CARES Act,” includes over $8 billion in defense spending. Of that, $250 million is designated for the “surface combatant supplier base program” which could benefit BIW and its suppliers.

If the surface combatant provision is included in a final package that becomes law, the Navy would coordinate with BIW and its main competitor, Mississippi-based Huntington Ingalls, to determine how best to use the funds.

BIW is best known for building Arleigh Burke-class destroyers for the Navy. The most recent destroyer, the future USS Daniel Inouye, was christened in June, becoming the 37th ship of its class to be built by the shipyard. Only BIW and Huntington Ingalls build Arleigh Burkes.

It’s unclear how much of the proposed defense funding will make it through the legislative process. The chief purpose of the HEALS Act is to provide economic relief amid the pandemic, as well as funding to help schools reopen. Some critics of the proposal have argued that level of defense spending shouldn’t be included in the package.

Sen. Susan Collins helped secure similar surface combatant supplier funding in the 2020 defense appropriations bill, which resulted in a $132 million award for infrastructure improvements at BIW on June 26.

“As a senior member of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, I have strongly advocated for the resources the hardworking men and women at Bath Iron Works need to deliver the highest quality ships that are essential to our national security,” Collins told The Times Record last week. “Last December, I secured funding in the Defense Appropriations Bill that resulted in a $132 million award for infrastructure improvements at BIW last month. The HEALS Act provides additional funding for this program that would continue to help improve the shipyard and support BIW’s employees and its suppliers as they deal with disruptions related to COVID-19.”

The $1.4 trillion appropriations package the Senate passed last December allocated $5.1 billion to build three Arleigh Burke-class destroyers in 2020. The bill also included $390 million above the president’s budget request for the Arleigh Burke advanced procurement, which amounted to a down payment for an additional ship next year.

Earlier this month, the Senate also passed the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act, an annual authorization bill that directs how federal funds should or should not be used by the U.S. Department of Defense.

According to a statement from Sen. Angus King, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, the legislation authorizes $3 billion for the procurement of two Arleigh Burke-class destroyers in 2021, which Bath Iron Works can compete to build. It also authorizes $464 million to fund future year Arleigh Burke procurement.

“The legislation includes vital funding to support national security and Maine jobs, rises to the challenge of the coronavirus crisis by authorizing research funding, gives members of the Armed Forces a pay raise, and takes steps to take care of both the mental and physical health of our service members,” King wrote. “This legislation will help keep Americans safe, and I’m looking forward to seeing the bill continue to progress through the Congress.”

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