Sen. Susan Collins chats with a Bath Iron Works Worker during a tour of the facility Monday morning. Contributed / Bath Iron Works

Sen. Susan Collins called on the Biden Administration to increase military support to Ukraine Monday afternoon, following a tour of Bath Iron Works.

“I will give the administration credit for working well with our NATO allies,” Collins said. “But I can tell you, having visited the region, if you talk to states like Moldova, the Baltic states and Poland, they are very nervous about what comes next. I think short of sending troops, which I’m not for, that we should be meeting the request that the Ukrainian government has made.”

Maine 2nd District Congressman Jared Golden, who joined Collins and U.S. Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Michael Gilday on a tour of the Bath shipyard, also called for Biden’s administration to send weapons and logistical support to Ukrainian soldiers.

While both legislators expressed their desire to expand on the $800 million in military aid Biden recently approved, neither supported enacting a NATO-enforced no-fly zone over Ukraine, which Gilday called “tantamount to putting boots on the ground.”

“It does not make sense to have a NATO-enforced no-fly zone because it would inevitably involve direct conflict between American or other NATO pilots and Russian pilots,” Collins said. “At this point, it’s not something we can do.”

Monday was Gilday’s second visit to Bath Iron Works, following a May 2021 tour of the facilities. Gilday, who also visited the Brunswick Naval Air Station did not speak to the media.


Collins and Golden agreed morale was high among the facility’s workers, after the Maine Congressional delegation successfully lobbied for additional funds to construct a second Arleigh Bruke-class destroyer in Bath this year. The $1.5 trillion funding package, which Biden signed in March, provided $3.68 billion to construct two warships, a change in course after the administration initially planned to cut production to a single ship in 2022.

U.S. Representative Jared Golden of Maine’s Second District (left) at Bath Iron Works. Contributed / Bath Iron Works

The company, which employees about 7,000 workers, has faced several challenges in recent years, including a 2020 strike, disagreements over vaccine mandates and the recent sudden departure of 30-year company veteran and President Dirk Lesko.

“Dirk Lesko poured his heart and soul into this yard,” Collins said. “He cared deeply about the men and women of Bath Iron Works and about delivering the best-built ships possible to the United States Navy. I will miss working with him.”

BIW has not given a reason for Lesko’s departure, which occurred April 7.

Bath Iron Works is currently working to hire and retain more employees, according to Golden, who cited competitive conditions in the labor market. He suggested recent wage increases could help put the shipyard on steady ground before its current contract with the Navy expires at the end of the 2022 fiscal year.

Lesko’s resignation was made public on the same day that union leadership announced a memorandum of agreement concerning “historic” midterm wage adjustments, the Portland Press Herald reported.


“To reach a midterm wage adjustment of this magnitude is something that all parties should be proud of,” IAMAW Local S6 wrote in a letter to members. “We are at a critical juncture with BIW. We need to prove we are the best shipbuilders in the world by delivering ships on time and on budget. That will greatly improve our negotiations strength headed into contract negotiations in August 2023.”

With the aid of the Maine Congressman delegation, the company will work to finalize another mutli-year deal to produce ships for the Navy, Golden said.

According to Collins, the war in Ukraine highlighted the importance of securing the future of Bath Iron Works.

“Our Navy is too small,” she said. “It is so important for us to be able to bring to BIW the Chief of Naval Operations, particularly at a time when our Navy has arguably never been more important. Admiral Gilday has served on BIW ships, and he agrees with us that Bath-built is best-built.”

This story was updated at 9 a.m. April 19 to correct the fact that the $1.5 trillion funding package provided $3.68 billion to construct two warships, not one.

U.S. Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Michael Gilday during his second visit to Bath Iron Works. Contributed / Bath Iron Works

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