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Adm. Mike Gilday, Sen. Susan Collins, and Sen. Angus King Hold Media Availability at Bath Iron Works

by CNO Public Affairs
24 April 2023

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday, Sen. Susan Collins, and Sen. Angus King hold media availability at Bath Iron Works in Bath, Maine, April 24.

MR. CHUCK KRUGH:  Good morning, everybody.  Welcome to Bath Iron Works.  It’s a privilege today for us to have the CNO Admiral Gilday and Senator Collins and Senator King.  They’re here to see our operation and see what’s happening inside of Bath Iron Works.  So, without any further ado, Admiral.

ADMIRAL MICHAEL M. GILDAY:  Good morning.  Thanks for joining us this morning.  I can’t tell you how great it is to be back in Maine.  As you walk around the shipyard this morning, we began at the training unit here they actually bring in the newest members of the team and they train them.  And their motto is to train the best – or, develop the best shipbuilders in the world, that deliver the best-built ships in the world.  Seven destroyers in construction right now here at BIW.  And these ships are soon to join many other destroyers in our Navy, and your Navy, that are around the world on point doing the nation’s business.

I couldn’t be more proud, the Navy couldn’t be more proud, of the work that’s done here, particularly by the skilled workers that deliver these ships.  We were just in one of the buildings where they’re putting together the latest Flight III DDGs.  So these are the latest and greatest destroyers in the world.  And they’re already 30-60% ahead of schedule in the different modules of those ships that they’re building.  So that I attribute to pride, commitment, they’re hungry for the work, and they sure are delivering.  So, again, it’s humbling to be here around this team.  It’s great to be back in Maine.  Thank you.

SENATOR SUSAN COLLINS (R-Maine):  First, let me say that we are absolutely delighted to have the CNO back in the great state of Maine.  I know that the CNO has been very impressed with what he saw today, as are we.  But you can’t come to Bath Iron Works without being impressed with the skills and dedication and patriotism of the men and women who built the best ships in the world.  “Bath-built is best-built,” has long been the shipyard’s motto.  And today, we saw why.  The shipyard has made great progress in the last year in improving its scheduled performance and reducing the number of hours that is needed for the very complex work that it does. 

The fact is, to have a strong Navy requires a partnership, a partnership with the Navy, the shipyards, and the Congress.  We need more ships.  Right now, the U.S. has fewer than 300 ships.  In just two years, China will exceed 400 ships.  The fact is, bigger fleets win.  And that’s why, as vice chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, and as the ranking Republican of its Defense Subcommittee, I’m going to work with my colleagues, both the rest of the delegation, the CNO, and with all those who are committed to building an even stronger, bigger Navy.  And we know that any ship that is built here at BIW will contribute mightily to that task.  Thank you.

Senator King.

SENATOR ANGUS KING (I-Maine):  Early on when I was in the Senate, I visited one of our intelligence centers.  And one whole wall was a huge interactive map of the world, a whole side of the building.  And on that map was every U.S. government asset.  But what struck me was, everywhere on that map were DDGs, were destroyers.  They were in the Mediterranean, in the Pacific, in the North Atlantic, in the South Atlantic.  This is the workhorse of the Navy.  And these ships are some of the most important that we build.

Now, one question is, why are we building these ships?  Are they to fight wars?  And the answer is, no.  They are being built to deter war.  The whole idea of our national defense policy is deterrence.  That any prospective adversary knows the power of a ship like this, and that if they act adversely to our interests they are going to feel the might of this amazing ship.  The ship that’s behind us, by the way, is named for Senator Carl Levin, who was the chair of the Senate Armed Services when I entered the Senate.  And my very first trip abroad was with him.  The two of us went to the Middle East. 

He was an inspiring, thoughtful – I think Senator Collins will agree – a senator’s senator.  And was so knowledgeable.  And the fact that this ship is named for him is entirely appropriate.  So we’re delighted to have Admiral Gilday with us here today.  And I guess the final thing I want to say is that having walked through this facility numerous times, this is – this is – I’m not kidding.  This is one of the most complex products made in the United States, or indeed anywhere in the world.  If you go through these construction facilities, what you see are hundreds of miles of lights, and wires, and the computer control.  It is an amazing technological feat. 

And it’s all being done by the men and women of BIW.  It’s all being done by the men and women from Maine who are building with skill, and with dedication, and, as the Admiral said, with pride.  And that’s what separates this yard from many others across the world.  This is a great asset to the state of Maine.  And we’re welcome – we welcome the admiral back here anytime he wants to come, because you cannot be in this facility and not be impressed by the skill and dedication of the workforce and the quality of the product that’s being produced. 

Thanks very much for being here on this soft Maine day.

MODERATOR:  We have time for a couple questions.

Q:  Admiral, how many ships does the Navy need in total, if it were up to you?  Senator Collins mentioned the number is now at 296. 

SEN. KING:  I’m going to listen to this.  I want to hear this answer.

Q:  So what’s your number?

ADM. GILDAY:  So the law is 355.  And we probably have to go north of that, to be honest with you.  I will say that there’s one common denominator between the Sailors of the U.S. Navy and the shipbuilders here at BIW.  That is pride.  And we’re both hiring.  And we’re hungry for talent.  So if you’re young people tuning into the news tonight, if you’re an educator in one of our schools nearby, or if you’re a parent and you really want to give your son or your daughter a great future, BIW and the United States Navy are two really, really good options.  Thanks for allowing me to make that shameless plug.

Q:  (Inaudible) – the timing’s gotten better?  I mean, just a couple years ago there was a six-month and nine-month backlog.  Obviously, we had the pandemic, we had the strike.  What’s changed in the last couple of years, since the admiral was here last?

MR. CHUCK KRUGH:  I think we’re re-finding our pride as well as a company and getting leaders out and getting them involved with the – with the employees.  Back to basics, you know, and leaders needing to lead.  You know, it’s all elementary stuff, but it gets everybody involved, right?  And we got the best workforce, bar none, in the nation.  And these guys, what they do every day, is amazing.  And if we had time, I’d show you how we do it.  I mean, you go look at what the welders do, what the pipefitters do, what all the folks do here.  It’s absolutely amazing.  And I think it’s just letting them feel the pride of building an awesome ship for our Navy.  And that ship helps protect not only our country, but each one of our families as well.

Q:  Where is this destroyer headed?  Is it going to go to work?

ADM. GILDAY:  She is.  In two months, the Carl – the USS Carl Levin will be commissioned in Baltimore, Maryland.  She’ll then sail south through the Panama Canal out to the Pacific.  She’ll be home ported in Hawaii.  And so not long after that she’ll find herself in the western Pacific doing the nation’s business.  It won’t be long.

Q:  How many destroyers does the Navy plan to buy in the next fiscal year?

ADM. GILDAY:  So in the next fiscal year we’re buying two.  So we’re at a two a year cadence.  And I think that there’s a potential for that to increase.  We’d like to that be three a year.  Congress has given us the authorities for a multiyear procurement contract that allows us to do a bundled buy.  That gains efficiencies in terms of price and gives shipbuilders like Bath a really clear set of headlights in terms of the demand signal for this kind of work.  So we’re very bullish on destroyers, as has been stated here in spades this morning.  And I see the – I think the future is very, very bright for this line of ship.  So right now Bath, BIW, is solely focused on DDGs.  And as both senators said, they’re the greyhounds of the fleet and the workhorse of the Navy.

Q:  Is one of those three coming from BIW?  Is one of those three a year meant to come from BIW?

ADM. GILDAY:  So those – BIW is going to compete really strong, trust me.  So those decisions will be made, but I think BIW stands in a spot to be competitive for these contracts.

MODERATOR:  Thank you.


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