Bath Iron Works deserves full-throated support

By Marty Grohman | Aug 05, 2018

“A good Navy is not a provocation to war. It is the surest guaranty of peace.”

Teddy Roosevelt was right on the money when he spoke those words in an address to Congress in 1902, and the importance of American naval power hasn’t changed since. That’s why we must work together as a nation to improve our Navy and Coast Guard by building more ships here in Maine.

We’re lucky that right here in our backyard, we have the finest shipyard and shipbuilders in the country in our own Bath Iron Works. The yard has built more than 400 ships since the 1880s, and in recent years was chosen to build the most technologically advanced warship in our country’s history — the Zumwalt-class destroyer. This remarkable ship, with its unconventional design, can do things no other ship can. That has created an immense opportunity for Bath Iron Works, which has proven what it can do just as numerous new naval programs are in the works.

That’s important. Maine deeply needs this bastion of American military might and cornerstone of our economy to stay viable for a long time. And it’s not just about our national defense. Through the years, the United States Navy has proven to be among the greatest of humanitarian organizations. When tsunamis or typhoons strike distant shores, more often than not, it is U.S. sailors delivering the initial aid to the victims of these tragedies. And, as President Roosevelt said, the key to American force projection, and therefore to peace, is a strong navy. To keep us safe here at home, we have to control the high seas all over the world. That means building ships at BIW.

That’s why I strongly supported a state bill this year that stopped a massive tax hike on the shipyard, and that’s why a bill that is moving through Congress, which will make sure ships are built at BIW, is such a great thing for Maine. After it’s signed into law, the bill will fund the construction of new ships that BIW can compete to build, and will continue crucial funding for ships already in construction. Called the National Defense Authorization Act, the legislation is considered by Congress each year. Each time it comes before Congress, there’s an opportunity for more ships to be built in Maine. So we need a strong, clear, constant voice building support for the shipbuilding program. It’s so important. Maine’s representatives must go to the mat every single day to back our naval capacity.

There’s more to it than just the vessels themselves. A modern warship is made up of an amazing number of components. When systems and subassemblies are outsourced, it hurts the employment picture at BIW.

All of it adds up to this: helping the yard is critical, because it is a cornerstone of Maine’s economy. Bath Iron Works employs people from every county in Maine. More than 6,000 employees from all walks of life and every type of career, from accounting to sandblasting to military officers, walk through the gates every day. The yard works with more than 300 Maine companies as part of its supply chain, infusing nearly $400 million into the Maine economy every year.

Can you imagine what would happen if it closed? It would be akin to losing the economic and cultural impact of our lobster industry. That’s why we need full-throated, all-out, constant support for the shipyard. It’s extremely important — so much so that I believe that unyielding focus on getting bipartisan support for a larger Navy with as many ships built and maintained at BIW as possible is practically a prerequisite for holding federal office in Maine.

Bath Iron Works is one of the largest pieces of our economic foundation, and we have to work together to keep it open, to make sure as many ships are built here as possible, and to minimize the outsourcing, which sends work for key subcomponents out of state. That’s what I’ll do if I’m elected to Congress this November — let there be no doubt.

Marty Grohman of Biddeford is a businessman, independent state representative and a candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives in Maine’s 1st Congressional District.

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