WASHINGTON — The Obama administration defense strategy outlined Thursday safeguards national security and should mean a prosperous future for two major Maine military facilities, said Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-1st District.

However, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, worries that the smaller military force envisioned by the strategy could keep combat soldiers from getting a promised two years at home for every year they are deployed, even with fewer troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, warned that the blueprint for overhauling the U.S. military is a significant departure that’s going to draw a lot of congressional scrutiny.

Pingree noted that the strategy makes it clear that the U.S. needs to shore up its defenses in the Asia-Pacific region. That means a continued emphasis on the Navy and on building ships, said Pingree, a member of the House Armed Services Committee.

Pingree said the General Dynamics Bath Iron Works ship building plant and the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, which overhauls nuclear submarines, seem well positioned in a world of looming defense cutbacks.

BIW has about 5,400 employees, and Portsmouth employs about 4,500 civilians.

“There is so much talk about the importance of building the Navy,” Pingree said. “I feel good about the potential impact on BIW or Portsmouth. Both are well regarded by the Navy and critical parts of how we will stay strong in the future.”

Pingree said that overall defense cuts are necessary and won’t endanger national security.

“We have to cut down on the cost of our military and they have a good plan showing how we will stay strategically sound and well prepared,” Pingree said in a phone interview. “We can’t continue with this same force we were at when we were in the midst of fighting two ground wars. It’s very expensive.”

Pingree said she doesn’t worry about the United States finding itself embroiled in more than one war at a time because Congress and the military have shown they can carry out a rapid military buildup if needed.

“We know how to expand capacity,” Pingree said.

Collins, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in a statement that the Obama administration’s “focus on the Middle East and the Pacific appears to be sound policy.”

Also is a member of the Senate Appropriation Committee’s defense subcommittee, Collins said she plans to question Defense Secretary Leon Panetta when he appears before lawmakers about “the impact of the new strategy on our security as a nation, our all-volunteer force, and the defense industrial base which must be strong to meet current and future military requirements.”

Rep. Mike Michaud, D-2nd District, endorsed the Obama administration strategy.

“This review was necessary given the shifting security landscape and the need for our country to face budget realities. I have confidence that our military has the ability to adapt to this changing environment and will carry out whatever new strategy they are given,” Michaud said in a prepared statement.

Michaud also said that he is optimistic that Maine’s ship building operations will remain part of the U.S. military’s future.

Snowe, in a prepared statement, said she wants to see more details about the new defense strategy and what the Obama administration proposes for 2013 defense spending before she predicts the impact on Maine.

“I will be closely scrutinizing all (Department of Defense) programs, including the Navy’s shipbuilding plan,” said Snowe, a member of the Senate intelligence committee. She too noted that the Navy has stressed the need to build more ships.

The 2012 defense bill approved by Congress last year authorized spending $2.5 billion for work on three destroyers at BIW. Defense analysts have said that continued demand for new destroyers should ensure the long-term stability of BIW.

At least one area cited as possible place to cut could affect Maine, however.

Pratt & Whitney does work on the engine for the planned F-35 fighter jet at its plant in North Berwick. That is a weapons system that has been talked about by defense analysts as possibly coming under the budget knife.

Pratt & Whitney said last year that about 100 of the roughly 1,300 workers at the North Berwick plant were assigned to the engine program, but that more jobs would be added when the engine is in full production.

Pratt & Whitney spokeswoman Stephanie Duvall said Thursday via email that, “We have not been notified … about any F-35 cuts at this time. Until they make any final budget announcements and we’ve had a chance to review, it’s too soon to know what/if any impact.”

Jonathan Riskind — 791-6280

[email protected]

Twitter: MaineTodayDC

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