Critical work on Dry Dock 1 at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard could be on the chopping block along with several other projects at the yard in order to pay for President Donald Trump’s border wall, according to a new list compiled by the Department of Defense.
Funding could be slashed for the $110 million superflood basin for Dry Dock 1; a $62 million paint, blast and rubber facility; $42 million for an extended portal crane rail; and a $12 million warehouse. According to the Defense Department, some $6.8 billion in projects already approved by Congress in fiscal year 2019 alone are also in jeopardy.
U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-New Hampshire, who released the list to media Monday evening, called on her colleagues in the Senate to “stand up for the Constitution” and stop the president’s national emergency declaration to build the wall at the border with Mexico.
Last week, the Senate passed a House resolution on a bipartisan basis that would have terminated the president’s “emergency” declaration. Trump vetoed the resolution Friday.
“Raiding Shipyard funding to build the president’s border wall would confirm New Hampshire’s worst fears about this unconstitutional declaration,” Shaheen said. “These projects are vitally important to the shipyard’s mission, to jobs in the region, and have been planned for years. This list further underscores why Congress acted on a bipartisan basis last week to block President Trump’s so-called ‘emergency’ declaration.”
The upgrades to Dry Dock 1 are crucial in order for the shipyard to meet future demands, shipyard commander Capt. David Hunt said in 2018. The work will allow the dry dock to accept the newer Virginia Class submarines. Currently, it can only accept the older Los Angeles Class subs, which will be phased out by 2029. Design work for the superflood basin is underway, preparing for the $109 million basin project.
The need to modernize dry docks at all four public shipyards was underscored in a Government Accountability Office report last fall. It estimated the Navy needs to spend $4 billion in the next 20 years on dry docks alone, and $20 billion overall to modernize the yards’ facilities, which it rated as “poor.” Given the current level of funding at the shipyards, the report estimates it will take 19 years to eliminate the backlog in needed restoration and modernization work.
This most recent list from the Defense Department now puts that superflood basin in question. And that is “unfortunate,” said J.J. Joyal, a retired longtime shipyard worker and now chair of the Seacoast Shipyard Association.
“That dry dock is critical. It will enable the shipyard to continue for the next 100 years,” he said. “And this money has already been allocated by the U.S. Congress. They’re moving full steam ahead with the construction on that dry dock. To derail something like this is tinkering with national security.”
He said the paint, blast and rubber facility is also critically important to shipyard operations.
“These submarines are metal, and the live in saltwater — the harshest environment known to mankind,” he said. “I hope they will reconsider taking this money out of the shipyard’s present funding. If I’m not mistaken, the Mexicans were going to pay for the wall. Does that mean the Mexicans can fix the infrastructure after Mr. Trump takes away the money?”
U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-New Hampshire, also had harsh words for Trump.
“It is alarming and completely unacceptable that the Trump Administration is considering stripping funding that’s intended for the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard as part of the President’s unconstitutional emergency declaration,” she said. “The Portsmouth Naval Shipyard is vital to our national security interests, and ripping funding away from these important construction projects would jeopardize the Shipyard’s ability to keep our attack submarine fleet ready for action.”
As Congress faces a vote to override the president’s veto, Shaheen said, “while I appreciate the support from a number of Republicans in the Senate in standing up for the Constitution and funding set aside for our military, more Republicans must join the effort to stop this declaration. I will continue to do everything in my power to protect funding for the Shipyard and defend New Hampshire’s role in our national security.”