Click HERE to watch Senator Collins’ Q&A at the Appropriations Subcommittee hearing
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Washington, D.C. – At a recent Senate Military Construction Appropriations Subcommittee hearing, U.S. Senator Susan Collins questioned Vice Admiral Dixon R. Smith, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Fleet Readiness and Logistics, on the Department of Defense’s fiscal year 2019 budget request for military construction projects.
Senator Collins expressed her support for the Navy and Defense Logistics Agency’s request for $162 million to undertake much-needed infrastructure upgrades at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard (PSNY) in Kittery, Maine. These improvements will ensure that PNSY is able to accommodate both Los Angles Class and Virginia Class submarines and are instrumental in helping restore the deferred submarine maintenance availabilities caused by the Navy’s current dry dock capacity shortfall. Given the planned expansion of the fleet and the subsequent increased demand on shipyards, Senator Collins asked Vice Admiral Smith whether the shipyard modernization plan should be revisited.
“These modernization and infrastructure investments are desperately needed. They’ve been needed for a long time to help the shipyard conduct the [work] necessary to improve and maintain fleet readiness,” said Senator Collins. However, “the modernization plan was completed before there was the additional funding, and, in light of the fact that the size of the fleet is likely to be larger than the plan's initial assumptions, are you taking another look at the adequacy of the current modernization plan?”
“That shipyard is great. I've had a chance to visit [PSNY] several times and it's great to be able to see that we're putting the resources into it that we need to put in, to not only that shipyard, but all four shipyards,” replied Vice Admiral Smith. “Yes, you're correct the shipyard optimization plan came out before we identified where we need to grow to 355 [ships], so we are relooking [at]— with a growth of the fleet—what’s in the plan right now, what meets the future requirement, what doesn’t meet the future requirement… That analysis is going on, being led by Naval Sea Systems Command.”
Senator Collins also questioned Vice Admiral Smith on the Navy’s approach to building a super-flood basin at dry dock 1 that will be fully capable of docking Virginia Class submarines. Due to cost constraints, the Navy is considering dividing the project into two phased projects in fiscal years 2021 and 2022.
“My concern is that a phased approach could introduce unacceptable risk to the tight schedule required to make sure that the project is complete when the Navy needs it for fleet maintenance beginning in January of 2024,” said Senator Collins. “So, rather than splitting the project, which significantly increases the risk to the scheduled completion date, would the Navy consider two options: One, either fully funding it in a single fiscal year, as a single project rather than a two-phase project, or, if that isn't feasible, providing incremental funding at 65 percent in fiscal year ‘21 and then 35 percent in fiscal year ’22?”
“As you state, this is going to be an expensive project, but it's much needed. We have not built a dry dock in 30 years, so we're going through the engineering analysis right now to figure out how to properly do this. That engineering analysis will help us determine what is the best way to fund that to make sure we get that done when it's needed,” replied Vice Admiral Smith.
Vice Admiral Smith promised Senator Collins to keep her informed of the engineering study’s progress.
As a senior member of the Appropriations Committee, Senator Collins works to ensure that projects important to Maine are adequately funded. Last September, Senator Collins announced that the U.S. Navy had awarded nearly $5 million for architect-engineering services for the dry dock number one superflood basin at PSNY.