Maine lawmakers want to restore a planned warship eliminated from President Biden’s budget for the upcoming year. While some congressional officials have said they’re confident the vessel will be restored, Rep. Jared Golden told The Times Record “there’s still a very long road ahead and nothing is certain.”

Biden’s military budget request, released late last month, cut the number of Arleigh Burke-class destroyers — manufactured at Bath Iron Works and Ingalls Shipbuilding in Mississippi — from two to one. The current contract between the Navy and shipyards, however, called for two surface combat ships during the next fiscal year.

Golden argued the Biden Administration’s mistake when was “focusing on the top line dollar amount rather than what the nation needs and working backwards from there.”

“At the heart of this, someone in the White House decided they want to put out a flat budget,” Golden said. “As a result, they’re starting with the price and telling people to find a way to make it work. I think Congress should undo that, and I think it’s important for defense.”

Golden added that “the Constitution of the United States gives Congress the power of the purse” when authorizing defense budgets.

Golden is vice-chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces, responsible for setting the shipbuilding manufacturing policy included in the National Defense Authorization Act, which directs how federal funds should be used by the Defense Department each year.

As hearings on the budget continue, Golden said he doesn’t “think we’ll have this fully resolved until the fall.”

If Congress isn’t able to regain the cut ship for the Navy, whichever shipyard isn’t awarded the new ship may be forced to lay off about 500 shipbuilders due to the decrease in workload, Golden said in a hearing of the House Armed Services Committee last Tuesday.

“Those are likely to be the youngest shipbuilders,” Golden said last week. “It takes five to seven years to get fully proficient so those are your future shipbuilders. Those are your DDG-X shipbuilders.”

DDG-X is the colloquial term for the next class of warship in development that will likely replace the Arleigh Burke. During a visit to BIW last month, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday said the Navy is “collaborating right now with BIW and other shipbuilders as we work on the initial design” of that next ship class.

Maine lawmakers continue to argue cutting one ship would cripple the nation’s industrial base in one of the two shipyards tasked with constructing Arleigh Burkes, often called the “workhorse of the Navy” by Sen. Angus King. This would sabotage future work the shipyard would be tasked with for years to come.

“When welders leave and go somewhere else, they’re gone,” King argued in a Senate Seapower Subcommittee hearing on the budget earlier this month. “I believe we should restore that ship, but also talk about advanced procurement for three ships and beginning the process of a new multi-year because otherwise, the industrial base wastes away. And then, as I say, you can’t turn it off and on.”

That potential cut to the workforce would hurt BIW especially, Golden said, because the company has been on a mission of bolstering its workforce over the past few years “at the request of the Navy.”

BIW boasts roughly 7,300 employees but has added almost 3,000 new employees in 2019 and 2020, with plans to hire at least 2,000 more this year.

Before the president’s budget was released, business news service Bloomberg reported the request for Arleigh Burke-class destroyers may shrink to just one, down from the initially anticipated two.

The change frustrated lawmakers and analysts who wondered if it signaled an end to the class.

“This budget is retiring some old large surface combatants in big numbers,” Connecticut Congressman Joe Courtney said after touring Bath Iron Works facilities with 1st District Congresswoman Chellie Pingree and Golden earlier this month. “If we’re going to divest older capability ships to free up money to invest in newer capability ships, you have to make sure you do the second part, and this budget doesn’t do that.”

Following the tour, Courtney, chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces, vowed to “push back against the president’s budget request” and “make sure the workload (at BIW) remains the same.”

Aside from potentially impacting the nation’s shipbuilding workforce, Pingree and Golden, along with Sens. Susan Collins and King, opposed the ship cut in a May 27 joint statement, arguing the reduction “would be slowing the Navy’s efforts to reach its target fleet size of 355 ships and hindering our ability to confront China’s military aggression and economic misconduct.”

The country would continue operating 296 warships under Biden’s proposed defense budget.

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