July 9 (UPI) -- Shipyards could suffer if the U.S. Navy does not order additional Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks was told this week.
Hicks visited Bath Iron Works in Maine, a General Dynamics subsidiary founded in 1884 whose primary customer is the U.S. Navy, and the Naval Sea Systems Command's Portsmouth, N.H., Naval Shipyard, to discuss a decrease in orders for Navy destroyers, the Pentagon said on Friday.
The trips were part of an assessment Hicks conducted this week of modernization and innovation efforts at several Pentagon installations.
In its 2022 budget, the Navy asked Congress to fund construction of only one destroyer, down from two requested in 2021, although last week the House Appropriations Committee returned the second ship to the military budget.
Bath Iron Works executives are concerned that the low order will cause layoffs among experienced workers capable of building the Navy's newest destroyer, the DDG(X) class.
The new destroyers are designed to succeed the Arleigh Burke-class destoryers.
"There's no overlap between the current projected end of the [Arleigh Burke] program and the start of DDG(X)," Jon Mason, Bath Iron Works' vice president for human resources at the shipyard, told Defense One.
"And the challenges that that will create from an industrial base standpoint is what we really wanted to convey in these discussions here today," Mason said.
The Navy's long-term goals include a reduction in the older destroyers to about 65, down from the 90 currently at sea -- some of which are ready for decommissioning and retirement.
Bath Iron Works has requested orders for construction of at least 15 destroyers, beginning in 2023.
It currently has six Arleigh Burke-class ships under construction, and one Zumwalt-class ship.
Thirty-two Zumwalt-class ships were originally planned by the Navy, a number later reduced to seven and then to three.
Without new orders, the company has projected layoffs of 2,500 workers, of a workforce of about 7,000 people.
Maine's congressional delegation has advocated restoration of funding for new ships.
In June, Bath Iron Works was visited by Rep. Joe Courtney, D-Conn., chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces, who is in favor of restoring construction of the previously-eliminated Arleigh Burke destroyer.