Our region got great news earlier this year, when Electric Boat leaders projected 1,500 new hires in 2016 and 4,000 new workers over the next decade to meet the growing demand for new submarine construction. This is not just great news for the Groton shipyard, but for small and mid-sized manufacturing firms across eastern Connecticut that supply the submarine program.
This did not happen overnight – Joe Courtney has been fighting since his first day in Congress to make sure that our nation invested in our critical submarine force, and the industrial base that builds it. In fact, he’s so well known for his years of hard work on this issue that his colleagues call him “Two Sub Joe” and earned a top spot on the subcommittee that oversees submarine programs.
Joe has fought to secure a bright future for the “Submarine capitol of the world” by:
Winning Critical Support for Getting to Two Submarines a Year. When Joe took office in 2007, Electric Boat was building only one Virginia-class submarine a year — a policy that led to hundreds of layoffs in prior years and left the future of the yard, and the countless small and medium-sized businesses that rely on it, in doubt. In his first year in Congress, Joe secured nearly $600 million to begin building two submarines a year in 2011 – a year earlier than the Navy planned at the time, and reversing years of delay in achieving this milestone. Today, with the two submarine rate underway, Electric Boat is building more new attack submarines than they have since the 1980s.
Working with bipartisan coalition to protect increased production rate. When a budget proposal unveiled in 2012 year suggested breaking the two a year production rate, Joe worked members on the other side of the aisle to reverse this plan. Together, Joe and his colleagues on both side of the aisle secured the funding needed to keep submarine production rates steady. This resulted in the signing of the “largest shipbuilding contract in the Navy’s history” in 2014 to sustain the two submarine build rate through 2018, providing stability to the shipyard and the region.
Meeting the growing demand for submarine capabilities. Looking ahead, Joe is working to ensure that the Navy can continue to build two Virginia Class submarines a year while also building the new Columbia class strategic deterrent submarine – and as a result of his continued efforts to grill the Navy about their plans to meet growing demands for submarine capabilities, the Navy is already reversing course on a future plan to drop to only one new Virginia submarine in 2021. This will help meet growing demands around the world for the unmatched capabilities of our submarine fleet.
Getting the next class of submarine underway. When Joe got to Congress, Electric Boat was not designing the next generation of submarine – the first time that our region’s talented submarine designers and engineers were not actively working on a new sub in over 50 years. Joe got right to work – securing over $8 million in “seed” money to get Electric Boat working on the initial concept studies for the replacement of our fleet of Ohio-Class submarines in his first term. Since then, Joe has fought to pass annual defense bills that increasingly invest in the research and development of the new class of submarine – and when some in Congress tried to cut funds for the program, he worked with members on both sides of the aisle to defeat their misguided plans. And, he authored a new law to create special cost-saving authorities and funding approaches to ensure that the Navy can build the Columbia class and other vital shipbuilding programs at the same time – which, according to independent congressional analysts, will save billions that can be put to use building other new submarines and ships. Known today as the Columbia class submarine, this program is the Navy’s top priority and fueling unprecedented levels of hiring growth at Electric boat and suppliers across the region as it ramps up.
Filling the Pipeline of Talented New Shipbuilders and Manufacturers. With submarine current and future submarine construction reaching levels not seen since the 1980s, the demand for skilled tradesmen and engineers is higher than ever. To meet this demand, Joe has worked with state and local workforce development officials to develop a new manufacturing pipeline program that will give students the skills and training they need succeed at Electric Boat and other manufacturers around the area. Joe brought the federal Labor Secretary to the shipyard to see firsthand the innovative model eastern Connecticut developed to meet the challenge, and with Joe’s advocacy the program received more than $6 million in federal funding to move forward. Today, students are enrolled in classes at community colleges like Quinebaug Valley and Three Rivers — and nearly all graduates are starting new jobs at Electric Boat or other manufacturing firms in the region.
Investing in the Future of Submarine Base New London. Our submarine base is a critical part not only of our nation’s defense, but of our region’s economy and rich maritime history. While Joe has worked across the aisle to reject new base closure efforts, we must remain vigilant and continue to ensure that the base remains prepared to accomplish its most important mission – the training and support of our submarine force. That is why Joe has worked to secure more than $80 million in new construction at the base – funding that has been used to build a new training center, replace a key waterfront pier, provide an all-year all-weather firing range for small arms training and improve the waterfront operations center. New improvements, such as modern piers to support the newest submarines coming off the line at Electric Boat, are planned as well – ensuring that the base continues to be ready to support our submarine fleet. And, with growing recognition of the demand for undersea capabilities in the future, Groton is now home to a new national undersea warfare development command led by a high ranking Admiral.