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FOXNews.com May 11, 2005

States Try to Share Ship-Building Business

WASHINGTON — The powerful DDX destroyer is nicknamed the "stealth" warship for its design that has several flat surfaces above the water to make it more difficult for the enemy to detect.

The Navy wants to buy one DDX per year, paying about $3 billion per ship, but the place where the ships will be built is a point of disagreement between the Pentagon and Capitol Hill.

The Pentagon wants the two shipyards that build the Navy's destroyers to compete, meaning only one would get the whole DDX contract.

The two sites are Ingalls Shipyard in Pascagoula, Miss., run by Northrop Grumman and Bath Iron Works in Bath, Maine, run by General Dynamics.

Defense analysts say the Pentagon has calculated that it's too costly to have both sites building the DDX, especially considering that only one warship will be built each year. Plus, they argue, the Navy has pared down its other surface ship construction to one shipyard.

"One shipyard to build aircraft carriers, one shipyard to build amphibious assault, one shipyard to build amphibious attack, and so I think the theory is there is very low production rate of only one ship a year, [and] it makes sense to narrow it down to just one shipyard," said John Pike, director of Globalsecurity.org.

But closing one of the shipyards means a financial hit to one of the states and constituents out of work. That drew the attention of some lawmakers who have nixed, for now, the Pentagon's idea of one yard to build the DDX.

Republican senators from Maine and Mississippi want one shipyard to build a DDX one year and the other shipyard to build the warship the next year. They say it's a matter of national security as well as good business.

"Since there would be no competition, it would be very hard to control the cost, bidding processes, and I thought it was bad for our country not to mention both of the shipyards," said Sen. Trent Lott of Mississippi.

"It's important to have two shipbuilders because if you're relying on one and something goes terribly wrong, obviously it jeopardizes our national security interest," said Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine.

Deliberations are especially poignant in Maine because some analysts say the Portsmouth Naval Yard may end up on the Pentagon's base closure list. If Maine were to lose both Bath and Portsmouth, experts say it could devastate naval shipbuilding in New England.

Ultimately, both Pascagoula's and Bath's shipyards may stay in business with one handling the DDX contract and the other fulfilling other Navy contracts.

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