November 10, 2017

FY 2018 defense budget with big wins for Maine passes key hurdle

Photo / Jim Neuger
Photo / Jim Neuger
Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, which dates to 1820, employs a total of 6,329 civilians, including 5,430 at the shipyard and the balance elsewhere on the base. U.S. Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, announced Thursday that the defense budget for fiscal year 2018, which passed a key hurdle in the budget process, includes $61.69 million for the construction of a paint, blast and rubber facility for the Kittery shipyard.

U.S. Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, announced that the House-Senate conference committee's bicameral agreement on the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2018 includes key victories for Maine.

King served on the conference committee that reconciled the differences between the Senate's version, which passed by a vote of 89-8, and version advanced by the House of Representatives.

Now that the bipartisan report has been agreed to by the conference committee, the House and the Senate will each vote on the final report and, if it passes, send the final version to the president for his signature.

King identified the following defense programs funded in the budget agreement as ones that will directly benefit Maine:

New facility at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard: The legislation authorizes $61.69 million for the construction of a paint, blast, and rubber facility at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery. King also supported an amendment authored by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., that calls for a study on dry dock capacity to identify and support the shipyard infrastructure needs at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.

New National Guard Center in Presque Isle: The legislation authorizes $17.5 million for the construction of a new National Guard Readiness Center in Presque Isle.

Funding for shipbuilding priorities: The legislation authorizes more than $5.62 billion for Navy destroyer programs, including more than $5 billion for the procurement of three DDG-51 Arleigh Burke destroyers in fiscal year 2018 that Bath Iron Works can compete to build, as well as more than $314.5 million for the continued R&D and production of DDG-1000 Zumwalt-class destroyers, all of which are being built at Bath. King also cosponsored an amendment authored by Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., in support of the Navy's Force Structure Assessment requirement for 355 battle force fleet ship. This requirement was codified into the final conference report.

Joint Strike Fighter: The bill authorizes the procurement of 90 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters of all three variants. Several Maine-based companies, including Pratt & Whitney in North Berwick and General Dynamics in Saco, are in the supply-and- production chain for this fifth-generation fighter.

Long-range Strike Bomber: The bill authorizes more than $2 billion for research, development, testing and evaluation of the long-range stealth bomber, B-21, which King stated will be a central pillar of the United States' national security strategy to deal with future threats. Pratt & Whitney, which maintains a facility in North Berwick, will be the engine supplier for the B-21.

CH-53K Helicopter: The bill authorizes more than $567 million to procure four CH-53K helicopters. Hunting Dearborn in Fryeburg manufactures the rotor shaft for this helicopter.

No new BRAC round: The bill rejects President Trump's call in his fiscal year 2018 budget request for additional base closures under the Base Realignment and Closure process. The last BRAC process occurred in 2005 when a recommendation to close the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard was ultimately overturned by the BRAC Commission, but Brunswick Naval Air Station was closed.

"The people of Maine have long played a vital role in our national defense, and this bill will allow them to continue that tradition," King said in a news release.

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