BATH, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Members of Maine's Congressional Delegation say Bath Iron Works could be hurt if there is another round of federal sequester budget cuts.
Congress still hasn't been able to pass a new defense budget or any other budget, and the current fiscal year ends September 30. Now there are increasing worries that the lack of budget decisions will trigger the sequester law and force another round of major budget cuts in 2014. Defense Department projections have estimated a new sequester round would take as much as $50 billion from the defense budget.
Shipbuilding escaped most of the sequester cuts earlier this year. But the Secretary of the Navy says that probably won't happen again. He made a speech in Washington last week, saying new 2014 spending cuts could include shipbuilding programs.
BIW has contracts to build nine ships right now - three of the new-design DDG-1000 "Zumwalt Class" destroyers, and six of the more familiar DDG-51 destroyers. A shipyard spokesman says they believe those contracts will be safe, even if there is another sequester, but worry about contracts for future ships.
Senator Susan Collins told NEWS CENTER she's also worried about that. Collins says she thinks the comments by the Secretary of the Navy were "putting Congress on notice" of the impact of another sequestration. She was highly critical of the entire Congress for its inability to pass a budget. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) and Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-First District) , however, both pointed to what King called "a minority of Republicans" who they say are blocking passage of a new budget, and bringing back the threat of another sequester.
Collins says if there is another sequester round, she will work to make sure the Navy honors existing contracts.
BIW Communications Director Jim DeMartini told NEWS CENTER the threat of more cuts means the shipyard needs to work even harder to become more efficient and cut costs, so the Navy will continue to build ships there. He says the current proposal by BIW to build two new buildings at the yard is aimed at increasing efficiency, by moving more of the key construction work indoors.
BIW will meet with Bath's planning board on the proposal Tuesday night.