The AP has reported that cuts to a Navy destroyer program could devastate the nation's shipbuilding capabilities and deal a major blow to developing future surface combatants, Northrop Grumman's shipbuilding chief and others warn.
The Pentagon has considered cutting as much as $15 billion from weapons and development programs in next year's budget to offset the cost of the war in Iraq. Senate and House leaders differ on just how much money should go to DD(X) destroyer program.
Northrop Grumman Ship Systems and General Dynamics' Bath Iron Works in Maine — the nation's two major builders of war ships
— are partnered in the design phase of the DD(X), which would replace the Navy's aging fleet of destroyers.
It could be years before construction on the first ship is completed, and contracts for additional vessels would be awarded later if funding remains available.
The president has requested $716 million in procurement and $1.114 billion in research and development funds for the DD(X), Cochran said.
The DD(X), once developed, could allow the Navy to strike miles inland or to hit isolated targets in populated coastal areas with precision guided weapons, the Navy believes.
Naval officials also like the prospect that the design of the ship is highly automated, with the need for only a small crew.
U.S. Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., has been a vocal opponent of any cuts to the DD(X) budget. He says cutting the program could compromise the United States' ability to defend itself.
Northrop Grumman's largest Mississippi shipyard is in Lott's hometown of Pascagoula. The company also has yards in nearby Gulfport and in Louisiana.
With more than 5,600 employees at Bath Iron Works and nearly 20,000 working for Northrop Grumman Ship Systems in Mississippi and Louisiana, both companies fear funding cuts.