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Timing Torpedoes Navy¿s Destroyer Plans

To prevent a break in production, the Navy is backtracking on recently hatched plans for shipbuilding.

The Navy had long planned to buy seven modernized DDG-1000, Zumwalt-class destroyers. But just last month, the service decided to halt the purchase at two and instead buy up to nine older-model Arleigh Burke-class ships.

In a move sure to please Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and long an advocate for the new model destroyers, the Navy now wants to buy one more of the new Zumwalt-class vessels, which are expected to cost between $2 billion and $4 billion. Some of the ships are built at General Dynamics Bath Iron Works in Maine.

Navy Secretary Donald Winter explained his reasoning — it was simply too late in the annual budget cycle to change what the Navy asked for in February.

Congressional appropriators sent their own signal on the issue before the August recess. The House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee provided partial funding for the Zumwalt-class ship, but not for the older model ships. Senate appropriators have not taken a crack at the defense budget.

“We have a president’s budget on the Hill, which calls for a third DDG-1000,” Winter said in an interview today. “We want to be able to continue production of surface combatants, particularly destroyers. We want to avoid any gap, if you will, that would impact the industrial base or the fleet.”