Defense secretary visits Bath Iron Works
BATH, Maine - The Pentagon's decision to build all three of the Navy's next-generation destroyers at Maine's Bath Iron Works assures plenty of work for shipbuilders for "a considerable number of years into the future," Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said yesterday.
Visiting a shipyard for the first time, Gates toured an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer in the final stages of construction, the Wayne E. Meyer, and met with shipbuilders and sailors who'll serve aboard the ship on a helicopter landing pad at the fantail.
Gates said the Obama administration's budget aims to give the Navy what it needs while bringing stability to the Navy's shipbuilding infrastructure.
"There's plenty of money in the budget to keep this shipyard busy for a considerable number of years into the future," Gates told reporters after the event.
The Navy plans to build only three next-generation Zumwalt-class destroyers, the follow-up to the Arleigh Burke, but all of them will be built at Bath Iron Works.
The stealthy Zumwalt has faced critics who've questioned the military necessity of the ship, and the Navy apparently agreed. After building the three, shipbuilders will revert to building the older destroyers, which, unlike the new destroyer, can be configured for ballistic missile defense thanks to their phased-array radar and powerful computers.
It's rare for a defense secretary to visit Bath Iron Works. The last time it happened was when Defense Secretary William Cohen attended the christening of the Winston S. Churchill.