February 18, 2020
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Maine delegation opposes Trump’s destroyer construction cuts

Troy R. Bennett | BDN
Troy R. Bennett | BDN
A Bath Iron Works crane looms over the south end of the city in this 2019 file photo.

President Donald Trump’s budget proposal includes funding for two destroyers like those built at Bath Iron Works in the upcoming year but would slash the number of destroyers built in subsequent years, Maine’s congressional delegation said Tuesday.

The delegation “strongly opposes” a reduction in the number of destroyers built over a five-year time frame, saying it “would seemingly be at odds with the congressionally mandated goal of building a 355-ship Navy,” the lawmakers said in a joint statement. The Navy currently has about 294 ships.

The Trump budget proposal would cut destroyer production from 13 ships to eight ships over five years, officials said.

“This budget does not appear to be on a path to the larger naval fleet that the Trump administration promised,” said Loren Thompson, a defense analyst at the Lexington Institute, who said the Navy is entering a period of flat to declining budgets.

The president’s budget for the coming fiscal year budget provides $4 billion less for Navy shipbuilding than Congress provided in the current year.

The proposed cost cutting comes as the Navy works to modernize its ballistic missile submarine fleet, replacing aging current Ohio-class subs with new Columbia-class nuclear subs. That program is putting pressure on the shipbuilding budget. In the end, the Navy backtracked from an earlier proposal to eliminate a destroyer from the 2021 budget while opting to cut a Virginia-class attack submarine, officials said.

But the administration proposal is not the final word on the production of destroyers, which are built at Mississippi’s Ingalls Shipbuilding in addition to Maine’s Bath Iron Works.

The Trump administration knows that “Congress will come to the rescue as they have in the past” because there are so many jobs at stake, said Jay Korman, a Navy analyst with Avascent Group in Washington.

Last month, Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins and independent Sen. Angus King, and Democratic Reps. Chellie Pingree and Jared Golden, sent letters to Defense Secretary Mark Esper objecting to the Navy’s proposal to reduce its shipbuilding program.

“Congress has the final say on funding, and we will continue to advocate for the resources our military needs and support the hardworking men and women [at Bath Iron Works],” the lawmakers said.

 


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