Collins speaks on size of Navy, budget challenges, global threats

I wrote earlier this week about the Surface Navy Association meeting in Virginia being held this week, and the work being done at Bath Iron Works that would be highlighted by parent company General Dynamics.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, spoke at the meeting today, making a strong push for increased funding for naval shipbuilding – which would benefit Maine, as one of the largest employers in the state is BIW, with its 5,700-person work force.

In speaking about the newly released 10-year defense plan released by the administration, and considering comments made by senior administration officials over the past year, Collins said she saw a “commitment to shipbuilding and the shipbuilding industrial base,” according to a copy of her remarks.

From her speech:

Our fleet begins in our nation’s public and private shipyards.  I have always been a leading advocate for our shipyards, not only because of the great contribution Bath Iron Works makes to my home state of Maine, but also because a strong industrial shipbuilding base is a vital national asset.  When Secretary Panetta visited Electric Boat in Groton late last year, he described that it was the nation’s shipyards and factories that enabled the U.S. to ramp up armament production at the outbreak of World War II.  He went on to say that the country should never lose this capability, and I could not agree with him more.  

 If we lose the skills at our shipyards or they begin to atrophy, there is no guarantee that we can reestablish them quickly enough when they are needed the most.  I question whether building an average of only 1.5 destroyers per year is adequate to preserve the skills and the number of production workers needed for a secure and cost efficient industrial base.  I would also note that this procurement rate alone is insufficient to preserve competition between the two yards – competition which has worked to keep shipbuilding affordable for American taxpayers.

Collins’ remarks touched on the recently passed defense authorization bill, cuts in spending, and the threat in Asia of both China and North Korea. You can see a copy of her remarks here.