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BATH — The U.S. Navy has awarded a contract worth more than $640 million to Bath Iron Works to build a fifth Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King announced.
The shipyard was previously awarded contracts to build four of the destroyers. A shipyard in Mississippi is also building five of the guided missile destroyers for the Navy.
“This additional destroyer will not only help add stability to the workforce at BIW and result in greater savings for the taxpayers, but it will also allow the Navy to send another (destroyer) to sea when the Navy’s fleet needs to preserve important combat capabilities now and into the future in support of our national defense,” the senators said in a joint statement.
The fifth ship was welcome news within the BIW community.
“The award of this ship is great news for the men and women of BIW,” BIW spokesman Jim DeMartini said March 14. “It allows us to maintain production levels, stabilize employment and provides our highly skilled workforce more opportunities to refine our processes and ensure we continue delivering high quality, affordable surface combatants to our Navy customer. The delegation’s continued work to support national defense and what we do at BIW is recognized by all of us and is very much appreciated.”
U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, also applauded the news.
“This is excellent news for the men and women who work at BIW and it will help keep workers on the job,” Pingree said. “That’s important for the families who earn their living at BIW but it’s also important to keep some of the best shipbuilders in the world employed. We can’t afford to lose their skills and experience and I’m glad this contract has come through to help provide stability at the yard.”
In January, the Senate passed a spending bill that included $100 million to allow BIW to begin planning for construction of a fifth DDG-51 destroyer.
Securing the funding “was a difficult feat,” Collins, R-Maine, told the Bangor Daily News at the time. With the $100 million secured, U.S. Navy officials were ready to sign a contract option to approve the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, she said.
In June, the Department of Defense awarded contracts for nine Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers, five to Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula, Miss., and four to BIW, with the option for a fifth.
The funding was included in the National Defense Authorization Act, which President Barack Obama signed in December, but Congress still had to allocate the funding.
Automatic federal spending cuts known as sequestration, which took effect in March 2013 after Congress failed to strike a budget and national debt reduction deal, resulted in a more than $300 million shortfall in funding for the fifth DDG-51.
Collins said she and King lobbied members of the Appropriations Committee to include the funding, which she described as particularly difficult given “a very constrained budget for the Department of Defense.”
The Bath Iron Works-built USS Michael Murphy, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, left Bath in September 2012 and was commissioned in October 2012.