Maine’s congressional delegation wrote to President Biden in opposition of reports the forthcoming fiscal year 2022 budget request will recommend procuring only one new destroyer instead of the expected two or three.
“We were surprised and dismayed by recent media reports suggesting that the Department of Defense is only expected to request a single DDG-51 Flight III destroyer in the administration’s budget for FY 2022. This would be a reduction from the two DDG-51’s previously projected for FY 2022 and a significant deviation from the current multiyear contract executed by the Navy and the two large surface combatant shipyards,” the letter said.
The May 18 letter was signed by Sens. Susan Collins (R), Angus King (I), Rep. Chellie Pingree (D) and Rep. Jared Golden (D).
The Arleigh Burke-class DDG-51 destroyers are built by General Dynamics’ [GD] Bath Iron Works in Maine and Huntington Ingalls Industries’ [HII] Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula, Miss. Lockheed Martin [LMT] is the lead contractor for the Aegis system installed on all destroyers.
On May 18, Bloomberg first reported the Defense Department is expected to request only a single destroyer in the FY ‘22 budget request. It said the Navy will request the single DDG-51, two Virginia-class submarines, one Constellation-class frigate, a John Lewis-class refueler, two Navajo-class T-ATS salvage and towing vessels, and one Auxiliary Ocean Surveillance Vessel.
In 2018, the Navy awarded HII a $5.1 billion contract for six Flight III DDG-51s and GD $3.9 billion for four other ships, covering a combined set of 10 Flight III destroyers. The Flight III contracts cover one such vessel from each company per year from FY 2019 to 2022 to maintain a two-ship per year build rate. The contract includes options for up to five more destroyers over FY 2018-2022 if the Navy and Congress decide to increase the build rate to three per year (Defense Daily, Sept. 28, 2018).
The Maine delegation said it is “deeply concerned” a reduction to a single FY ‘22 destroyer procurement “would harm the large surface combatant shipyard industrial base and its talented workforce, which have made great progress working to increase capacity and efficiency over the past several years.”
“Since agreeing to a five-year multiyear procurement contract in 2018, industry had planned for a procurement rate of at least two ships per year through the next fiscal year,” it continued.
The delegation argued this kind of predictability and stability in maintaining two destroyers procured per year is necessary in maintaining a healthy shipbuilding industrial base and said the Navy previously called maintaining the base a “national security imperative” that must be supported and grown.
The letter noted in Congress added $130 million in the FY 2021 defense bills to support procuring a third destroyer in FY ‘22.
“As members of our respective chambers’ Appropriations and Armed Services Committees, we will continue to advocate for increased procurement of DDG-51’s and will oppose any proposal to procure only a single DDG-51 in the upcoming fiscal year,” the letter said,
The Maine delegation also tied the need for destroyers to helping deter potential Chinese military aggression and economic coercion.
“If the United States is to safeguard its future, we must continue to make vital investments in our military and especially our Navy. China’s Navy has already reached the 355-ship fleet goal set by our own military and the United States Congress, while our own fleet disappointingly lingers below 300 ships. Simply put, the United States is not keeping pace with China on shipbuilding, and an abrupt and shortsighted proposal to reduce planned large surface combatant procurement would hinder our Navy’s ability to compete for years.”
The letter also said reducing destroyer procurement would reduce the Navy’s anti-air and ballistic missile defenses featured in the Arleigh Burke-class destroyers. The letter argued this capability is “necessary to successfully operate and project power in the Indo-Pacific, where China has advanced anti-access and area denial capabilities.”
Maine’s delegation said if media reports to this effect are accurate “ we ask that you remedy this harmful reduction prior to the release of your final budget request.”
On May 10, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday visited Bath Iron Works for the first time with Collins and King.
“DDGs are the workhorse of our Fleet, and simply put, you can’t get to the fight if you don’t have ships to sail there. To the entire workforce here at Bath Iron Works who are responsible for helping us generate warfighting readiness, you have my profound thanks,” he said in a statement during the visit.