May 6, 2014
by Joe Courtney
Last week, the U.S. Navy signed its biggest shipbuilding contract in U.S. history with Electric Boat to build the Virginia Class Block IV submarine. The $17.6 billion agreement will fund the construction of 10 subs over the next five years, with the work divided between Groton and Newport News, Va. The execution of the contract is a milestone economic victory for our region, and will strengthen our national security posture around the world.
This contract is the culmination of long-running efforts to overcome a preliminary shipbuilding plan proposed in 2012 that would have provided funding for only nine ships over five years, cutting one ship from the 2014 budget. In the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower, we produced a creative, bipartisan solution to stretch taxpayer dollars further to accommodate 10 ships, and increase advanced funding authority to help the Navy make its budget work. Previously, the only shipbuilding program to adopt such a structure was for aircraft carriers — the construction of which was costly enough to require an incremental funding method. The top shipbuilders in the world, the EB workforce in eastern Connecticut, have earned a reputation for delivering Virginia Class submarines on-time and under budget.
Because of EB’s excellence, Congress and the Navy are confident in making a long-term investment in this program. This is not a one-year earmark or a short-lived project. Ten submarines in five years is a substantial investment in our industrial workforce. This contract will support more than 11,500 jobs in Groton and Quonset Point, as well as more than 350 companies in Connecticut that supply parts, materials and services crucial to the construction process. The economic ripple effect in our region is difficult to overstate.
In 2007, I joined the House Armed Services Committee and took up the fight to restore funding for two submarines a year, a build rate that ended in the 1980s. Since then, countless strategic reviews by the Defense Department and the Navy have shown that our undersea fleet will play an increasingly crucial role in our national security strategy as our focus turns toward the Asia-Pacific region. The superior capability of our fleet allows the U.S. to dominate the undersea domain — a strategic advantage that this contract will help maintain.
In other good news for southeastern Connecticut last week, the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness, on which I serve, rejected on a bipartisan basis the administration’s proposal for a 2015 round of Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC). SUBASE New London has seen major investments in its infrastructure and capabilities in recent years, and it remains the epicenter of the U.S. Submarine fleet. This decision adds even more certainty that the submariners stationed in Groton will continue their great work for years to come.May 6th, 2014