Is America coming back? Senators propose $25 billion for shipbuilders

Updated: May 7

A bipartisan group of federal lawmakers says shipbuilding should be part of the debate to restore America’s infrastructure, and proposed legislation that would provide $25 billion in funding for shipyards across the nation.

The bill from Sens. Roger Wicker (R-MS), Tim Kaine (D-VA) and others is the Supplying Help to Infrastructure in Ports, Yards and America’s Repair Docks Act, or the SHIPYARD Act. It was introduced just as Congress begins to consider President Biden’s $2 trillion infrastructure plan, and its supporters say shipyards need to be part of that conversation.

Most of the proposed funding would go toward America’s four public shipyards: Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Virginia, Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Maine, Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Washington, and Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard.

The legislation takes a walk down memory lane on the history of each of these critical yards, and notes that they have each been “foundational cornerstones of the strategic infrastructure of the United States, and those shipyards will continue to be so in the future.”

  • In 1767, Andrew Sprowle established the Gosport Shipyard in Virginia under the British flag. That equipment eventually became the heart of the Norfolk Naval Shipyard. “For more than 230 years, the Norfolk Naval Shipyard has assisted the United States in winning nine major wars, putting an end to piracy, sending the Great White Fleet around the world, supporting scientific exploration of the Pacific, and opening Asia to United States trade,” the legislation states.

  • The Portsmouth Naval Shipyard was established in June 1800, and it’s America’s oldest continuously operating shipyard. “In 1776, the USS Raleigh was built in Kittery, Maine, and became the first vessel to fly to American flag into battle.”

  • In 1889, Congress approved a budget to start building the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. “Since that time, the shipyard was front and center in supporting the Nation’s efforts in World War I, World War II, and the Korean War by constructing submarines, surface ships, and support vessels required to win those wars. In late 1965, the USS Sculpin (SSN 590) became the first nuclear-powered submarine worked on at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard.”

  • The Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard was established in 1908, and would become world famous 33 years later. “On December 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor and the Navy Yard at Pearl Harbor were the scene of a devastating attack on the United States by the Imperial Japanese Navy. Despite the devastating attack, the shipyard and its workers were able to return ships damaged in the attack back into service and enabled the United States to win the Pacific War.”

Under the legislation, $21 billion would be used to upgrade and overhaul the four public shipyards. Another $2 billion would go to private yards that build Navy ships, and $2 billion more would go to private repair yards.

AUSN Executive Director Jason Beardsley said his organization fully supports the bill.

“This bill takes an important step toward the revitalization of our historic shipyards, a goal our members support,” he said. “AUSN is developing a detailed position on shipbuilding that deals not only with funding but with other factors that play into America’s ability to produce the ships she needs to project power overseas and defend this land, such as education and vocational career paths, and we welcome the effort being made by Sen. Wicker and his colleagues.”

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