KITTERY, Maine – Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro called the Portsmouth Shipyard a “beacon for our silent service” as it stood on Wednesday against a patriotic backdrop.
Del Toro attended a groundbreaking ceremony on a $ 1.7 billion dry dock expansion project at the local shipyard. He joined municipal and local congressional and Maine leaders from New Hampshire and Maine, as well as shipyard officials.
The seven-year project, which is part of the Federal Shipyard Infrastructure Optimization Program, will double the size of the shipyard’s existing Dry Dock Area 1, where Navy attack submarines are located. repaired, maintained and modernized.
Citing his shipbuilding experiences in a southern shipyard from 1999-2001, Del Toro said he understood firsthand the dedication required to produce top quality ships.
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“As the largest (military construction) project in history, this is a significant investment by the American people,” he said. “With this investment, they can sleep safely. They will know that our nuclear attack fleet can count on fast and available maintenance and repairs.
On Friday, August 13, the project was awarded to 381 builders, based in Omaha, Nebraska. The expanded dry dock will accommodate Los Angeles and Virginia class attack submarines.
Dry Dock 1 was originally built during World War II, and on January 27, 1944, three submarines were launched from space.
Senator Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH, said Congress has pledged $ 21 billion to shipyards across the country over the next two decades to “recapitalize dry docks, optimize facilities and modernize equipment de la Marine “via the Shipyard Infrastructure Optimization Program (SIOP).
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The PNSY dry dock project is also the first of three planned within SIOP, she noted.
“This dry dock project is a huge undertaking for the shipyard and the Navy, and it is essential to our national defense that this project and others like it stay on schedule and are funded on a consistent basis,” Shaheen said. .
Impact on the Navy submarine fleet
At 221, the oldest public shipyard in the United States, Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, was called the “gold standard” for public shipyards across the country by Senator Susan Collins, R-Maine, on Wednesday.
A member of the Senate Appropriations Committee and the Military Construction and Veterans Appropriations Subcommittee, Collins said the failure of the dry dock project would have resulted in the postponement of 20 submarine maintenance availabilities until in 2040.
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“The on-time completion of this dry dock project is essential to ensure that our country’s submarines can return to the fleet and accomplish their important mission,” she said.
Wednesday marked Del Toro’s first visit to a public shipyard since taking the oath of office as head of the military branch on Monday, August 9 in Arlington, Virginia. The other three public shipyards are in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii; Bremerton, Washington; and Norfolk, Virginia.
Referring to growing maritime threats from Russia, China and “rogue and terrorist states,” Del Toro said the expansion of the dry dock would improve U.S. naval operations and help combat hostile forces around the world. .
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“This expansion increases capacity and availability, which will increase throughput and readiness, and this is critical because the threats on the horizon are very real today,” he said.
The shipyard commander, Captain Daniel Ettlich, said the contract is the “largest and most complex project” ever awarded by the Naval Facilities and Engineering Command.
“The transformation of the infrastructure at Portsmouth Shipyard is a marathon, not a sprint,” he said.
Congressional leaders including Senator Maggie Hassan, D-NH, Senator Angus King, I-ME, and Representative Chris Pappas, D-NH, gathered with speakers in front of a makeshift pile of sand commemorating the inauguration.
Jointly led by Naval Sea Systems Command, Naval Facilities Engineering Systems Command and Navy Installations Command, SIOP aims to repair and modernize dry docks at US shipyards, restore shipyard facilities and replace equipment ” aging and deteriorating, ”according to Portsmouth Shipyard.