BATH, Maine — The U.S. Navy on Friday announced that it has postponed the Oct. 19 christening of the future USS Zumwalt at Bath Iron Works.
According to a release posted on the Navy website, uncertainty over the federal government shutdown caused the delay.
“It is incredibly unfortunate that we are being forced to cancel the christening ceremony for this great warship,” said Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, “but the ongoing government shutdown prevents us from being able to honor Adm. Zumwalt’s memory with a ceremony befitting his and his family’s legacy of service to our nation and our Navy.”
The Navy will work with BIW and the Zumwalt family to reschedule the christening.
Chris Johnson, spokesman for Naval Sea Systems Command, said Friday that the ceremony would likely be rescheduled for the spring of 2014.
Bath Iron Works officials were notified Friday morning of the postponement, shipyard spokesman Jim DeMartini said. He said the christening will still take place, but the date is uncertain.
BIW had invited about 4,000 people to the event, and officials are in the process of notifying them of the postponement.
The future USS Zumwalt is a first of three next-generation DDG-1000 destroyers under construction at Bath Iron Works. The Zumwalt class has been called “stealth” destroyers. Their mission is to “provide independent forward presence and deterrence, support special operations forces and operate as an integral part of joint and combined expeditionary forces,” according to the Navy.
DeMartini said construction of the warship continues, and it is scheduled to have initial operational capability in 2016.
The DDG 1001, the future USS Michael Monsoor, is scheduled for delivery in late 2014 or early 2015, and the third, DDG 1002, the future USS Lyndon B. Johnson, is due in 2017 or 2018.
The line of warships has since been discontinued due to cost. Construction of Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, which were supposed to be replaced by the Zumwalt class, has restarted.
The Zumwalt honors Navy Adm. Elmo R. “Bud” Zumwalt Jr., who became the 19th Chief of Naval Operations in 1970. He died in Durham, N.C., on Jan. 2, 2000.
In a statement Friday, Pingree said the postponement “is a bit of a disappointment for the men and women at BIW who have worked so long and so hard to get the Zumwalt ready for launch and were undoubtedly looking forward to the christening ceremony.”
“This is an inconvenience and a disappointment but is also another example of how the government shutdown is impacting Maine,” Pingree said.
Gov. Paul LePage, who was scheduled to speak at the christening, on Friday blamed the delay on “the failure of leadership in Washington.”
“It is disgraceful that the christening of a Bath-built destroyer named in honor of an admiral is being postponed because politicians in Washington, D.C., cannot get their act together,” LePage said in a statement. “Our military service members are being furloughed, Mainers are facing layoffs, our national park is shut down and now this. It is yet another disruption Mainers are forced to deal with because of the failure of leadership in Washington.”