WASHINGTON — In a letter to Defense Secretary Mark Esper, two key lawmakers decried proposed cuts to shipbuilding, saying the cuts threaten long-term security and jobs.
Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Angus King, I-Maine, said in a letter that they are “deeply concerned” about reports that five of the 12 Flight III Arleigh Burke-class destroyers planned in the Pentagon’s five-year projection were on the chopping block.
“We write to express our strong support for a 355-ship Navy and to urge continued support from the Department for a robust shipbuilding budget," the letter said.
The cuts, which were outlined in a memo from the White House’s Office of Management and Budget to the Office of the Secretary of Defense and obtained by Defense News, would hit Maine particularly hard, according to analysts, and could put jeopardize jobs at General Dynamics Bath Iron Works.
Collins and King highlighted $390 million appropriated in the 2020 budget for advanced procurement for three destroyers, noting that the memo only notes one destroyer planned for 2021.
The letter said Congress would get the last word on the shipbuilding profile, and the senators expressed confidence that support for shipbuilding would continue.
“We expect this congressional support for Navy shipbuilding and DDG-51 procurement to continue in FY 2021 and beyond, and we hope the Department and administration will join us in these efforts,” the letter read. “As you continue to develop and finalize the Department’s FY 2021 budget request, we urge you to reverse course from cutbacks to shipbuilding plans that may be under deliberation and to support a 355-ship Navy.”
In a statement to Defense News, an OMB spokesman said the Administration is clear that it is working toward the 355-ship Navy goal.
“The Administration has made very clear that a strong Navy with 355 ships is essential to combat the multiple threats we face as a Nation," the statement read.
David B. Larter was the naval warfare reporter for Defense News. Before that, he reported for Navy Times.