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May 07, 2020

King Questions Navy Secretary Nominee on Flexibility for Shipyards During Pandemic, Future Investments in Shipbuilding

Later in hearing, King emphasizes strategic importance of Arctic, cyber as national security imperatives

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) pressed Ambassador Kenneth Braithwaite, nominee to serve as Secretary of the Navy, on the importance of providing contract relief for shipyards experiencing schedule delays and incurring added expenses due to the coronavirus pandemic, as well as the industrial base benefits and financial savings associated with another round of multi-year procurement for the DDG-51, and emphasized the importance of improving America’s cyber capabilities. Senator King’s questioning came during a Senate Armed Services hearing featuring Ambassador Braithwaite; James H. Anderson, nominee to serve as Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Policy; and General Charles Q. Brown Jr., nominee to serve as Chief of Staff for the United States Air Force.





On the need to protect shipyard workers (Starting at 1:26)

“As we’re in the midst of this crisis, the Navy has deemed both of its public and private shipyards essential in terms of continuing their work,” said Senator King. “On the other hand, two points. One is, necessarily there have been delays, and contract delays because of the interruption in the work caused by the illness. I hope you’ll work with Secretary Guerts and Secretary Lord on flexibility in the contracts, and indeed perhaps additional funding in order to compensate the yards for working around this difficult situation… The other piece of that is, because the Navy has deemed these facilities essential, it’s meant that their workers, mostly civilians have gone to work. And had to and I hope that you will work with both the public yard officials, but also the companies involved with the private yard to be sure that they have the capability to keep their workers safe under these circumstances and the flexibility in terms of production schedules and such in order to facilitate safe workplaces for these patriotic Americans that are going to work every day to keep our country safe.”


In response to Senator King’s questioning, Ambassador Braithwaite affirmed the importance of flexible deadlines and committed to ensuring the safety of America’s shipbuilders.



On the benefits of multiyear procurement for DDG-51s (Starting at 0:16)

Ambassador Braithwaite, you and I talked about the DDG being the workhorse of the Navy, an important ship, a mature design,” asked Senator King. “We’re in the middle of a multi-year right now 2018-2022, I hope you will give serious consideration to a second multiyear starting in 2023, for two reasons. One, it’s significant taxpayer savings, when we buy in bulk as you were, and also it helps to ensure the stability of the industrial base. Will you commit to giving serious consideration to that possibility?”

“Absolutely Senator, and as you and I discussed, the DDG-51, the greyhound of the fleet, truly is the backbone,” replied Ambassador Braithwaite. “It’s something we have relied upon as the department, for the power projection that that platform provides. And as a former group purchasing executive, I couldn’t agree with you more in a group approach. That’s great for the people of American and being good stewards to the taxpayers, Senator.”




On the importance of improving cyber capabilities (Starting at 3:26)

“One of my concerns is that all of our strategic thinking, and it’s commonplace that we tend to fight the last war, and yet the next war may well be cyber. And I’d like to have your thoughts on the importance of preparation cyber, cyber-deterrence, resilience, the general question because this is where a country like Iran or North Korea that doesn’t have the military capability could still strike at the heart of our country.” 



As America’s defense industrial base continues their work to ensure national security during the pandemic, Senator King has pressed the Navy to ensure that Maine shipbuilders, including at Bath Iron Works, are able to stay safe and healthy. He has joined the Maine delegation to urge then-Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly to take action to protect the health of shipyard employees during the pandemic, as well as pushing for the Navy to extend the same guidance to both public shipyards and private shipyards.

Later in the hearing, Senator King pressed the witnesses on the importance of the Arctic as a strategic region. Senator King serves as co-chair of the Senate Arctic Caucus, and co-chaired the Cyberspace Solarium Commission which recently put forward a report on how to improve America’s posture in cyberspace.  

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