The latest change in the months-long process of building next year’s national defense bill could bring more work to Bath Iron Works in the coming years.

Maine 2nd District Congressman Jared Golden co-sponsored an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, approved Wednesday by the House Armed Services Seapower Subcommittee, that authorizes constructing a third Arleigh Burke-class destroyer in fiscal year 2022, running from Oct. 1, 2021 to Sept. 30, 2022.

The amendment also provides advance procurement funding for a third Arleigh Burke in 2023.

The House Armed Services Seapower Subcommittee approved the amendment, 42-17, Wednesday afternoon, according to a statement from Golden’s office.

The National Defense Authorization Act will next be brought to the full House for a vote, then the Senate. Lastly, both chambers will review their two versions and work out any differences between the two before it is brought to the president. The timeline for this process remains unclear, according to Golden’s office.

“Authorizing two more (Arleigh Burke-class) destroyers over the next two years would be great news for our shipbuilding workforce at BIW,” Golden wrote in a statement Wednesday. “These (Arleigh Burke-class destroyers) — the most versatile in our fleet — are key to our country’s national security interests at sea. I strongly support this bipartisan amendment because it will make necessary investments that help the American Navy keep us safe, protect thousands of good jobs in Maine, and prepare our shipyards and shipbuilders for the future.”

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.

The Arleigh Burke-class will soon be the only type of vessel constructed at BIW. The last of three advanced stealth Zumwalt-class ships, the future USS Lyndon B. Johnson, has been on sea trials, one of the final steps before the Navy takes possession of it.

Only one other shipyard in the country, Mississippi-based Huntington Ingalls, constructs the Arleigh Burke-class. Historically, when Congress approves multiple ships in a year, BIW and Huntington Ingalls share the work.

“These destroyers are not only vital in supporting Maine shipbuilders, but are the workhorse of the U.S. Navy and a critical component in securing our national defense,” Congresswoman Chellie Pingree wrote in a statement Wednesday. “The authorization of two additional destroyers over the next two fiscal years would further protect BIW workers and ensure our Navy remains competitive with our adversaries. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Maine delegation to ensure continued support for the Arleigh Burke destroyers and the dedicated workforce at BIW.”

BIW employs over 7,000 Mainers and added almost 3,000 new employees in 2019 and 2020, with plans to hire at least 2,000 more this year.

The amendment raises authorized spending by $25 billion, putting it roughly on par with the National Defense Authorization Act that passed the Senate Armed Services Committee. However, the amendment would be above President Biden’s budget request.

The Biden Administration’s defense budget request, released earlier this year, included funding for just one Arleigh Burke, one fewer than expected, meaning either BIW or Ingalls would lose out. The proposal received pushback from the Maine lawmakers who got to work advocating, 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.

In late July, Golden announced he secured an amendment to the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act that authorizes two Arleigh Burke destroyers the next fiscal year, reversing the president’s proposed cut. The amendment also authorizes the Navy to enter into a multiyear contract to build up to 15 Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, beginning in the 2023 fiscal year.

A multi-year contract for Arleigh Burke destroyers is considered critical to BIW’s “shipbuilding momentum and growing our workforce is critical to enabling BIW and our industry partners to support a smooth transition” to the next generation of destroyers that BIW hopes to build, said BIW President Dirk Lesko in a statement provided by Golden’s office. “We appreciate the strong support from our Congressional delegation.”

The week before, Sen. Angus King announced that the Senate Armed Services Committee’s first markup of the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act authorized $3.7 billion to fund the construction of two Arleigh Burke-class destroyers as well.

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