Top U.S. Lawmaker Tours Rhode Island Submarine Facility
By David Klepper
July 8, 2012
North Kingstown, R.I. - The No. 2 Democrat in the U.S. House of Representatives joined U.S. Rep. James Langevin on Friday in calling on Congress to approve funding to maintain production levels at Electric Boat's submarine manufacturing plants in Rhode Island and Connecticut.
Following a tour of the company's facility at Quonset Point, Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland said it's important to both national defense and the regional economy to preserve funding for the production of two submarines per year.
"We have to prioritize our defense expenditures," he said. "The work that's being done here is a priority in my opinion. We cannot and we will not sacrifice our national security."
The Obama administration had proposed funding construction of one Virginia-class submarine, rather than two, in 2014. Legislation that would add funding for a second vessel in 2014 has passed the House and is under consideration in the Senate. U.S. Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., a member of the Appropriations Committee, said he's optimistic the Senate will go along with the House.
Reed said the Virginia-class submarines' flexibility makes them critical to future defense strategy. The vessels, which cost about $2 billion each and take five years to build, are intended to replace aging Cold War-era subs.
"The logic is compelling," Reed said. "Electric Boat is a major employer, but we could not persuade significant numbers of senators if there were not also compelling strategic reasons."
Electric Boat, a subsidiary of Virginia-based General Dynamics Corp., employs more than 10,000 workers at Quonset Point and Groton, Conn. Lawmakers from both states said the facilities provide the highly skilled jobs the region needs.
"Unlike a lot of places in this economy, Electric Boat is hiring," said Langevin, D-R.I.
U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-Conn., said slowing the pace of production would make sub production less efficient.
"We would be losing a lot of the positive momentum we've been able to achieve," he said.
Building multiple vessels at once allows Electric Boat to reduce the cost and time it takes to construct each sub, according to John Holmander, Electric Boat's vice president of operations. The last submarine delivered to the Navy - The USS Mississippi - was completed a year early and $64 million under budget.