YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan–— Four senators from Maine and New Hampshire have included language in the 2012 defense bill that would mandate a plan to upgrade the nation’s four public Navy shipyards.

Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine; Olympia Snowe, R-Maine; Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H.; and Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., added the amendment this week to the 2012 Defense Authorization Act, which would require the Navy to present a plan to Congress by March 1, 2012.

The plan could potentially address billions of dollars of projects at naval shipyards in Norfolk, Va.; Pearl Harbor, Hawaii; Puget Sound, Wash.; and Portsmouth, N.H.

“I am very concerned with the lack of an investment strategy to address the lack of funding to maintain and repair our shipyards, and I have strongly advocated for the Navy to reverse this trend,” Collins said in a statement this week.

Collins, Shaheen and Ayotte are all members of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Collins is also a member of the Senate Defense Appropriations Committee.

A General Accountability Office report in November 2010 noted a $3 billion backlog of restoration and upgrade needs cited by the Defense Department, and added that those costs may be understated. The GAO study noted deteriorating piers and potential for building collapses during an earthquake at Puget Sound, as well as exposed roofs, rusted submarine enclosures and broken windows at the other shipyards.

The study added that without more detailed strategic plans, the Navy might not be able to measure the effectiveness of their efforts to improve the shipyards.

The four shipyards repair and maintain a variety of vessels, including submarines and aircraft carriers. Workers from Puget Sound and Pearl Harbor are also often sent to Yokosuka Naval Base in Japan to complement their local facilities. Many workers from Puget Sound were aboard the aircraft carrier USS George Washington during the March 11 East Japan earthquake.

The GAO report also called on the Navy to examine quality-of-life upgrades for Puget Sound and other shipyard workers.

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