Members of Congress visit Navy shipbuilder amid talk of cuts


FILE – In this Sept. 6, 2019 file photo, the U.S. Navy Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Lassen (DDG-82) moors at Fort Trumbull State Park in New London, Conn. The Navy is proposing construction cutbacks and accelerated ship retirements that would delay, or sink, the Navy’s goal of a larger fleet — and potentially hurt shipyards, according to an initial proposal. The proposal would shrink the size of the fleet from today’s level of 293 ships to 287 ships, a far cry from the official goal of 355 ships established in the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day via AP, File)

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BATH, Maine (AP) — The Democratic chairman and ranking Republican on a House Armed Services subcommittee toured Navy shipbuilder Bath Iron Works on Friday and offered assurances to shipbuilders amid reports of possible cuts.

Democratic Rep. Joe Courtney, of Connecticut, and GOP Rep. Rob Wittman, of Virginia, both members of the seapower and projection forces subcommittee, visited the shipyard at the invitation of Democratic Reps. Chellie Pingree and Jared Golden, both of Maine.

The tour came several weeks after a memo was leaked that outlined an initial Navy proposal to cut shipbuilding.

One proposal would reduce the number of Arleigh Burke-class destroyers planned for construction from 12 to seven over the next five years. Those destroyers are produced at two shipyards, Maine’s Bath Iron Works, a General Dynamics subsidiary, and Ingalls Shipbuilding in Mississippi.

Courtney and Wittman made it clear that they are strongly opposed to such a cut of shipbuilding, Golden said afterward.

“The Navy requested and Congress approved a multiyear procurement. This new proposal in the memo would nullify a contract that’s already agreed to. That’s pretty much unheard of,” said Golden, who is also a member of the seapower subcommittee.

Congress will have the final say, and shipbuilders should be heartened that there is bipartisan support in Congress for increasing the size of the fleet, not reducing it, he said.

Reports that the Navy was considering shipbuilding cuts and accelerated retirements of ships came as a surprise to many last month.

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.

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