Maine lawmakers continue to advocate for the funding of two Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, like the future USS Daniel Inouye, shown here at Bath Iron Works. The president’s military budget request called for only one destroyer. Kathleen O’Brien / The Times Record

Money for an additional warship that could be built at Bath Iron Works could be on its way next year.

The Senate Armed Services Committee’s first markup of the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act authorizes $3.7 billion to fund the construction of two Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, as opposed to the president’s previous call for just one ship.

The National Defense Authorization Act is an annual piece of legislation that directs how federal funds should be used by the Defense Department. It authorizes a certain amount of funding for military hardware, including ships for the Navy, but doesn’t determine what companies should get those contracts.

Arleigh Burke-class destroyers are made by just two shipyards — Bath Iron Works and Mississippi-based Huntington Ingalls — that compete for Navy contracts.

The bill also authorizes $125 million to fund material for a third Arleigh Burke in 2023.

“This year’s National Defense Authorization Act is an incredibly strong bipartisan bill that will strengthen America’s national security and assure that Maine’s workforce will remain a key contributor,” Sen. Angus King, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said Friday. “One of the most important provisions in the defense bill is the authorization of two DDG-51 Flight III destroyers, bringing the legislation in line with the multiyear procurement contract previously agreed to by the Navy and shipyards, including Bath Iron Works.”

With the added ship, the defense bill fulfills the projected total under the current multiyear procurement contract between the Navy and two shipyards, including BIW. According to King, the U.S. government would be on the hook for a $33 million penalty if that contract is breached.

Sen. Angus King, I-Maine.  Robert F. Bukaty/Associated Press

Though King and the rest of Maine’s delegation have openly supported funding two Arleigh Burkes in the coming year, President Biden’s draft military budget request, released in May, cut the number of Arleigh Burke-class destroyers from two to one.

King wrote Friday that continuing to build more Arleigh Burkes is “absolutely essential to national security” for two reasons: keeping business steady for the country’s shipyards maintains the industrial base, and growing the Navy to rival adversaries like China, whose navy outweighs the US’s.

Since the president’s defense budget draft was released, Maine lawmakers have advocated, both in committee hearings and through visits to the Bath shipyard, for that cut ship to be restored and warned of the potential repercussions of leaving it out of the budget.

Though they’ve said it will take months to be certain, lawmakers have said they’re confident the final legislation will call for two Arleigh Burkes.

“The House Appropriations Committee has already added that ship back in, and we’ll be working on that from the Senate side,” King said after visiting Bath Iron Works with Rep. Jared Golden and Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks earlier this month. “I believe it will be added back in. The president proposes, but Congress disposes, so we’ll have the final word on this budget.”

According to King, the legislation also provides support for a new multi-year procurement of destroyers beginning in 2023 “to support the shipbuilding industrial base and expansion of the Navy battle force to congressionally mandated levels.”

BIW previously called for another multi-year shipbuilding contract to keep business steady and prevent layoffs before the Navy’s next type of vessel is ready for construction.

Beyond shipbuilding legislation, the National Defense Authorization Act authorizes a 2.7% pay raise for military service members and the Department of Defense civilian workforce, according to a statement from King. It also grants 12 weeks of parental leave for military personnel upon the birth, adoption or foster care placement of a child.

The bill will go to the Senate floor next, which is expected to happen in early September.

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