Citing the ongoing war in Ukraine, Sen. Angus King this week lobbied for more long-term shipbuilding contracts for Bath Iron Works.

During a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing Wednesday, King advocated for multi-year contracts for BIW while questioning Nickolas Guertin, nominee for assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development and acquisition. Guertin, currently the Pentagon’s director of operational test and evaluation, is set to replace James Geurts, who left the post at the end of the Trump administration.

Sailors stand at the rail of the USS Michael Murphy, the last of the U.S. Navy’s original run of 62 Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, as the BIW-built ship heads down the Kennebec River off Phippsburg in 2012. AP file photo

King, who last year helped secure a multi-year contract for the Navy to procure 15 Arleigh Burke-class DDG 51 destroyers, which BIW can compete to build, said Guertin should prioritize transitioning production at BIW to the next generation of destroyers.

“One of the lessons we have from Ukraine … is maintaining the industrial base and being sure that there are consistent demand signals that will allow the private sector to make the investments necessary to have the industrial base ready and able when we need them,” King told Guertin.

Guertin agreed, saying, “We’re going to have to have deep bunkers. In order to do that, we’re going to have to really ramp up the quantity of weapons that we have available to us. So, if confirmed, I look forward to working with industry to send that strong demand signal, and that extends over time so they know how to invest and how to position themselves so they could build more affordably and at scale.”

The Navy planned to phase out the aging Arleigh Burkes in favor of the futuristic Zumwalt-class destroyers, but the latter program was canceled due to cost overruns, and in the end, BIW only built three. The Navy then transitioned to the more traditional DDG(X) program to find a new design more closely resembling the Burke ship. Last year, BIW was awarded a contract to help design it.


King said he’s concerned about any potential production gaps at BIW that could cause worker cuts.

“It’s very difficult in this economy to get them back,” King said.

Guertin said it’s important ensure a smooth production transition, adding the Navy is deciding on the design of the next generation of ships so yards like BIW “could step right into building them effectively when that time comes.”

BIW President Chuck Krugh said Thursday he was appreciative of King’s efforts.

“We support Sen. King’s assessment that a consistent demand signal gives shipyards and suppliers the predictability to make major investments in workforce and facilities,” Krugh said in a statement. “It also gives shipbuilders themselves confidence that they have a lifelong career building the workhorse of the Navy fleet and they can provide for their families. Predictability allows BIW to expand and accelerate its Navy ship production as well as ensuring that capacity remains intact well into the future as the fleet transitions to DDG(X).”

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