KITTERY, Maine — During a dual groundbreaking at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard on Friday, officials highlighted construction projects expected to help ensure the nation’s safety against emerging threats.
After examining 10 joint drills done together since 2012, analysts from the German Institute for International and Security Affairs said earlier this year that China has surpassed Russia as a maritime power.
At the same time, the Chinese navy is growing rapidly, with a growing armada of modern submarines, frigates and destroyers being built.
Kenneth Watson is deputy commander of Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) Land and Maritime, a combat logistics support agency for the nation. He traveled to the ceremony from Columbus, Ohio.
“I can tell you there is no more pivotal time in our nation’s history than right now as we rebuild readiness of our forces out there,” Watson told a group of workers gathered at the shipyard.
Crucial projects for naval readiness at the shipyard include two that were celebrated on Friday with photo opportunities at the sites of a new paint, blast and rubber consolidated facility costing $62 million, as well as a $17 million warehouse facility addition to enhance the ability of the DLA and Navy to receive, inspect and distribute submarine components.
Sens. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., and Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., joined Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, for the event.
“One of the things we know is we see China ramping up activities in the South China Sea, among other places, and expanding their own submarine fleets,” Hassan said. “It’s very important that our defense strategy includes a modern submarine force, as well as increasing and improving technology around the globe to fight these various threats.”
Hassan said supporting the maintenance and repair of America’s submarine fleet is necessary to ensure the United States is the top military power in the world.
Shaheen agreed, saying China’s new submarines are a threat.
“There’s more technology on them. They are more of a threat,” Shaheen said. “We’ve got to keep up with that and that is why what is happening here is so critical.”
The 65,386-square-foot paint, blast and rubber consolidated facility is being built by Plaistow-based Methuen Construction and should be completed by August 2022.
The 29,200-square-foot addition to the existing warehouse at Building 170A will be built by Cianbro Construction of Pittsfield, Maine, and should be completed by January 2021.
Shaheen and Collins also announced on Friday that a contract for work at Dry Dock #1 was awarded to Cianbro.
The construction of a super flood basin and extension of portal crane rails will cost $158 million. The basin will enable Virginia-class submarines to dock without the use of buoyancy-assist tanks.
According to a press release from Shaheen’s office, Dry Dock #1 can currently only accommodate Los Angeles-class submarines.
The projects were in danger of losing funding earlier this year after President Donald Trump threatened to siphon $3.6 billion from military construction projects when Congress limited him to just under $1.4 billion for border barriers in February.