The U.S. Department of Defense wants to reduce the number of new, expensive destroyers that it commissions from Bath Iron Works in the future, but the plan is only in the early stages and seems to have run into instant resistance from the White House.
According to a report from Defense News, the federal department may reduce the amount of Flight III Arleigh Burke-class destroyers by 40 percent in fiscal years 2021 to 2025. The ships are built by General Dynamics and its main competitor, Ingalls Shipbuilding in Mississippi.
The proposal from the Department of Defense was outlined in a December memo from the White House’s Office of Management and Budget and would cut five of the 12 destroyers out of the DOD’s future budget, or about $9.4 billion, according to Defense News. BIW had contracts to build five of the ships as of late last year cumulatively worth close to $5 billion.
In a joint statement, U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King of Maine said the plan would be an “abrupt reversal” the Navy’s long-standing plan to grow its fleet to 355 ships by 2035.
President Donald Trump has made the destroyers a part of his promise to increase defense capabilities, citing them in a Dec. 20 news release upon his signing of the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2020. That bill included $5.1 billion for three additional Arleigh Burke-class destroyers that BIW could bid to construct in the future.
“BIW is home to the best shipbuilders in the world, and this funding will help them stay competitive far into the future,” Collins and King said.
The ships have been part of a back-and-forth between the Navy and the White House, as the Navy has tried to get rid of them as its fleet has aged. Defense News cited a Trump administration official as saying the change was being driven by the defense secretary.
The cruisers are difficult to maintain, and had to go through a series of design changes and challenges, according to USNI News. They’re also expensive. A contract for a single ship awarded to BIW came in at $911 million in 2018.