KITTERY, Maine — Two projects deemed critical to the advancement of Portsmouth Naval Shipyard’s infrastructure modernization broke ground Friday, as elected officials and Navy personnel emphasized an urgency to ready the U.S. nuclear submarine fleet.
The projects — nearing a total of $80 million — were among those for which the federal delegation rang the alarm earlier this year, when President Donald Trump announced he would be able to divert military construction funds to build a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border under his declared national emergency. But as of Friday, all four PNSY projects in question included the fiscal year 2019 military construction budget have seen contracts awarded, with processes underway.
“This means that all four of the funded military construction contracts for the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard are now under contact and ready to go,” Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said during Friday’s groundbreaking ceremony for the $61.7 million Paint, Blast and Rubber Facility and $17.3 million Defense Logistics Agency Consolidated Warehouse.
“There is no more pivotal time in our nation’s history than right now, as we rebuild readiness of our forces out there against this new challenge,” said Kenneth Watson, deputy commander of DLA Land and Maritime.
The new challenge was addressed by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen — growing Chinese and Russian submarine fleets employing advanced technology.
“These two projects are part of a larger Navy and shipyard effort to increase workload capacity and the shipyard’s ability to overhaul and maintain more submarines,” said Shaheen, D-N.H., a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “It is imperative we invest in its infrastructure if we’re going to continue to support the mission of our military.”
The Navy’s 2018 Shipyard Optimization Plan, created to address deficiencies and an aging infrastructure, calls for $21 billion worth of investment in public shipyards over the next 20 years.
In 2017, the Government Accountability Office estimated it would take at least 19 years to clear the backlogs at naval shipyards — having grown by 41 percent over five years — connecting directly to the need for expanded workload capacity and expedited processes.