In Press: Susan Collins Goes To Appropriations

by Craig Hooper on February 21, 2023

I had a great talk with the Times Record’s John Terhune about Senator Susan Collins’ new role as ranking member of the Senate Defense Appropriations Committee. As always–after watching Richard Shelby run the place for years–it’s interesting to see how a new Senator will craft this role to suit their individual interests.

Collins–obviously–is focused on shipbuilding and wants ship numbers to go up, but I think her primary effort going forward will be to move beyond just shipbuilding and in distinguishing the hype from investments that are really necessary. The Army, Air Force and Space Force can be just as tech-blinded as the Navy and Marine Corps. As I say in the article:

It’s like high fashion: Every season there’s going to be something new,” Hooper said of the lengthy and sometimes fraught process of designing warships. “Is it always necessary? Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t. The trick for our naval and political leaders like Susan Collins will be in trying to distinguish the reality from the hype.”

I think Collins is bringing in some great staff who will help her balance between the proven stuff and things that might be a tad too ambitious–they’re certainly not brand-new “babes in the woods” who can get pushed around easily. They’re going to focus on things that are proven and have real-world field/operational experience.

It’ll also be interesting to see how quickly defense contractors work to lay down a footprint in Maine. It’s a tough sell–the State’s not set up to really absorb a whole lot more economic activity. Collins will need to twist a few arms in the state to get the locals to get serious about worker training, affordable housing and worker recruitment–but if Shelby’s record in Alabama is any sign of things to come, defense contractors are going to be setting up shop wherever they can, because:

“If you are a defense contractor and you are not trying to figure out how to maximize your investments in Maine or to get a footprint in Maine, you’re not doing defense contracting,”

Anyway, this will be fascinating to watch. General Dynamics must be relieved–Bath has been kind of spinning in the wind for some time. Huntington Ingalls, however, can’t be super thrilled that somebody from Maine controls Congressional largesse.

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