The national defense bill working its way through Congress includes authorization for two DDG 51 Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, the only vessel that Bath Iron Works builds. Kathleen O’Brien / The Times Record file photo

New destroyer contracts and a long-sought-after parking garage could be in the works for Bath Iron Works as the latest national defense bill makes its way through Congress — though the typically routine spending proposal is meeting unusual friction amid recent U.S. culture wars.

The $886 billion National Defense Authorization Act for the 2024 fiscal year authorizes two DDG 51 Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, which Bath Iron Works competes with the larger Ingalls Shipbuilding of Mississippi to build.

The bill also authorizes $60 million for a multiuse facility at BIW that could include a parking garage, $46.7 million for BIW and Ingalls to develop destroyer machinery systems, $35.1 million for BIW and Ingalls to design the next-generation DDG(X) destroyer, and $6.7 million to develop new weapons systems for the DDG 1000 Zumwalt-class destroyer.

Sen. Angus King, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the funding is crucial.

“It’s very easy for me to advocate for Bath Iron Works not only because of its importance to Maine and the region but also because of its importance to national security,” King said in an interview Monday.

King and the rest of Maine’s congressional delegates have advocated for building more destroyers as a bulwark against China’s growing navy.


The senator said a parking garage would alleviate ongoing parking and traffic issues at the shipyard.

“That’s one of the biggest problems I hear … is the terrible problem they have about parking,” King said. “People come from all over Maine to work at BIW and parking is a big issue. This is an investment in the infrastructure that I think is going to be important to retaining workers, attracting workers and just making the shipyard a more attractive place to work.”

King said planning for the DDG(X) is vital so BIW, which employs about 6,500 workers, can transition to building the new ships without reducing its workforce if there’s a gap between destroyer programs.

“There has to be a continuity of work,” he said.

BIW spokesperson David Hench said it’s the shipyard’s practice not to comment on pending legislation.

The defense bill includes a 5.2% pay raise for service members. The Republican-controlled House passed a version of the bill last week that would end time off and travel reimbursement for troops seeking abortions, end medical coverage of gender-affirming surgeries and hormone treatment for transgender troops, reduce diversity and inclusion programs, and ban Pride flags from being flown at military installations. Aside from the pay raise, those measures are not expected to be included in future versions of the bill with Democrats in control of the Senate.

“It would be irresponsible in the extreme to deny important initiatives that are in the bill, including a major pay raise for our troops, because of these pretty narrow, non-defense-related issues,” King said. “This is straight-up national security, and I can’t believe that my Republican colleagues in the House would not support the bill even though it would not have some of the provisions that they would like.”

The Senate is expected to take up the bill later this week or next week. The bill is typically approved toward the end of the year. Lawmakers then decide whether to appropriate funding in the bill.

“I think there’s a very good chance we’ll get this done both in a timely basis and on a basis that can generate bipartisan support,” said King, who recently said he plans to run for reelection.

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