EB's Expansion Into New London May Help Sub Base
By Jennifer McDermott
July 5, 2010
Larger presence could bolster case for 'synergy' in future BRAC round
The president of Electric Boat told the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission five years ago that the Naval Submarine Base should stay open because of the synergy it enjoys with his company.
Having the base near to EB results in more efficiency and effectiveness in the design, construction, repair and modernization of submarines, saving the Navy millions, EB President John P. Casey said at the July 6, 2005, hearing in Boston.
The commission overruled the Pentagon and kept the Groton base open.
Key figures in the fight to save the base now say that EB's expanded footprint in the region will create more synergy between the submarine manufacturer and the base, and hopefully ensure the base's future should there be another BRAC round.
EB announced in June that it was purchasing the former Pfizer World Research Headquarters in New London to accommodate its growing staff of engineers and designers.
"As our industrial base in Connecticut continues to grow, our base will only get stronger as well," said U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn.
The sales agreement is expected to be finalized within two months. Pfizer agreed to make room for EB personnel at the property prior to the closing, and EB began moving in office furniture last week.
The Pentagon's criteria for evaluating bases does not take into account "synergy"; instead, it judges an installation's "military value." But John Markowicz, who headed the Subase Coalition that played a key role in averting the closing, said the coalition would attempt to convince the Pentagon to revise the criteria in a future BRAC round.
"My overall impression was that EB and John Casey participating, particularly in the Boston hearing, had a significant impression upon the commissioners who were there and on the validity of the arguments we were presenting," he said.
"The interfacing between EB and the base is almost seamless. You cannot ignore that," added state Sen. Andrew Maynard, D-Stonington. "We have won the day on the strength of our synergy argument and EB making this investment is going to substantially strengthen our position overall."
EB needs office space for its design and engineering employees, many of whom work in buildings from the 1960s.
The company is also hiring about 700 designers and engineers. Half of these jobs were announced in January and have been filled. The rest of the new employees will be hired in the next two to three years.
They will work on the design for the Navy's next generation of ballistic-missile submarines to replace the current fleet of Ohio-class, or Trident, boats, and on the Virginia-class submarine design to reduce the cost.
"EB's expanded footprint is primarily in the design area, but design leads to construction," Markowicz said.
EB and Northrop Grumman Newport News in Virginia will start building two submarines a year instead of one in 2011. The production increase for the Virginia class will make the base "more important than ever," said U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn.
"I don't think we'll have another BRAC anytime soon, but when we do, Connecticut will be ready," Lieberman said.
The design and production of the Ohio replacement program will stretch into the second half of the 21st century.
"This really ensures not only a larger footprint here, but a deep footprint," said U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District. "We've got to keep our eye on the ball, which is the decision matrix the Navy looks at that deals with military construction, improvements and upgrades to the base, but the synergy aspect creates a good sort of context for the base's future presence."
Bob Ross, executive director of the state's Office of Military Affairs, said, "anything that happens to strengthen EB is good for the state of Connecticut."
A statement released by EB said, "there have been significant benefits to both the Navy and Electric Boat to being located so close together, and we look forward to continuing that long standing affiliation as we expand our engineering workforce in southeastern Connecticut."