June 10, 2021
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) today pressed Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin on the decision to include only one DDG-51 Flight III destroyer in President Joe Biden’s budget request for Fiscal Year (FY) 2022, contradicting previous budget plans that planned for at least two and threatening Bath Iron Works’ production schedule. During this morning’s hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee focusing on the Department of Defense budget posture, Senator King strongly pushed back against the move to cut the destroyers from the budget – echoing concerns that he raised with top Navy officials earlier this week in a hearing in the Subcommittee on Seapower. Cutting one DDG-51 would break the Navy’s multiyear procurement contract, creating instability in the nation’s defense industrial base, eliminating a ship which is commonly understood to be the “workhorse of the Navy”.
SENATOR KING: “Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Secretary I want to discuss just for a moment those hard choices. The top Navy unfunded priority is a destroyer that was eliminated from the budget that it was already committed to under the multi-year procurement. That has several problems – one, national security; these Flight III DDG destroyers are the workhorse of the Navy – eyes and ears around the world, very important part of our assets, but it also sent a shudder through the industrial base. It’s unprecedented, in my experience, that a multi-year has been breached, which would actually cost the government money in penalties. I hope, Mr. Secretary, that you and Admiral Gilday can work with us to restore that ship, because I think it has importance beyond just the one ship, but the symbolism of breaking a multi-year and also pulling back on our commitment to increasing the capacity of the Navy is I think, a very important priority. That’s not really a question, it’s an entreaty to you to work with us to try to find the funds to restore that ship, and restore the Navy’s number one unfunded priority. Will you commit to working with us on that?”
AUSTIN: “Absolutely, Senator, we will do everything we can to ensure we maintain a good working relationship with Congress. And I appreciate your tremendous support throughout and especially now. We want to make sure that we maintain a ready, capable and sustainable force. We also want to make sure that the industrial base has the ability to produce what we’ve asked them to produce. And, current plans are to buy that DDG in .”
SENATOR KING: “Thank you. I live within 8 miles of the industrial base in Maine and the industrial base is not something you can just turn off and on. It’s got to be something that’s sustained and maintained overtime.”
In May, Senator King joined the Maine delegation to express opposition toward the reduction of one DDG-51 from the budget. Last month, Senator King joined Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Representative Jared Golden (D-Maine) to host Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Admiral Mike Gilday in Maine to tour Bath Iron Works and meet with leadership and employees. In April, Senators King, Collins, and Representative Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) hosted Acting U.S. Secretary of the Navy Thomas Harker at both Bath Iron Works and Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. In March, Senators King, Collins and Representatives Pingree and Golden sent a letter to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks, urging them to provide unequivocal support to the long-standing and congressionally mandated requirement for a larger and more capable Navy fleet.
As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and the Subcommittee on Seapower, Senator King is recognized as a thoughtful voice on national security and foreign policy issues in the Senate. In addition to his committee work, Senator King serves on the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, the Senate North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Observer Group, and is co-chair of the Cyberspace Solarium Commission. He voted in favor of the Senate’s passage of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2021, which includes several funding and policy priorities advocated for by Senator King to support military facilities and communities in Maine and advance the national defense. The legislation – including $3.0 billion for the procurement of 2 DDG-51 Arleigh Burke-class destroyers in fiscal year 2021 – became law earlier this year after Senator King and the overwhelming majority of his colleagues voted to override former President Trump’s veto.