Courtney: House vote preserves two subs plan

U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney said a House measure passed Thursday will protect Electric Boat's two-submarines-a-year production schedule while delaying furloughs previously announced at the U.S. Naval Submarine Base and the Connecticut National Guard.

"The Department of Defense, within hours of the bill clearing the House, sent out notice that all furloughs are paused for two weeks while they calculate the impact," Courtney said in a phone interview from Washington, D.C.

Courtney, D-2nd District, said a continuing resolution passed overwhelmingly by the House Thursday includes $4.9 billion to pay for two Virginia-class submarines this fiscal year and to plan for additional submarines in 2014 and 2015. The resolution, which passed easily in the U.S. Senate Wednesday, funds the government for the next six months.

"EB and the Navy can now continue working on a five-year, 10-ship, multi-year contract that will ensure stability and certainty in our region's economy," Courtney said in a statement.

"This is encouraging news," Kevin J. Poitras, president of EB, said in a statement. "We appreciate the tireless efforts of the Connecticut and Rhode Island congressional delegations in getting this bill passed and supporting the Navy shipbuilding plan."

Courtney pointed out that a second submarine in 2014 initially was removed from this year's budget plan but was reinstated by the House Armed Services Committee, of which he is a member.

The resolution fully funds the $564.9 million projected cost for developing a design to replace the current Ohio-class subs produced at EB. It also allows the Navy to begin planning for its next round of submarine purchases, rather than delaying procurement plans for a year, and directs the military to include 10 Virginia-class submarines in its next multi-year contract.

A previous budget proposal had capped the purchase of Virginia-class submarines at nine.

"This bill extends the Navy's two-per-year submarine purchases and lays the groundwork for multi-year authority in the next block of Virginia-class submarines and the development of (the) next strategic deterrent submarine," EB official Poitras said.

Approval of a continuing resolution on the U.S. budget, which averted a March 27 government shutdown, was passed 318-109 and heads now to President Barack Obama, who is expected to give final approval.

Courtney hailed the resolution's passage, saying it will allow EB to "continue their important work that has a ripple effect across our region."

He pointed out that the continuing resolution also managed to restore some programs that have been affected by cuts imposed under sequestration, including a tuition assistance program for armed forces personnel.

The resolution did not add any money for other areas of the federal budget, including education, health and human services, Courtney said.

Courtney called the automatic cuts that came out of sequestration "indiscriminate" and said he had voted for "smarter reductions" that have been rejected by Republicans.

"Kicking kids out of Head Start, cutting Medicare payments to doctors, and furloughing hard-working Americans who rely on every penny of their paycheck to pay their bills is not a victory," Courtney said.

The Navy previously had announced that budget cuts would force some submarine repairs that had been planned at EB to be delayed. Courtney said Thursday it is too early to say whether passage of extra money for the Defense Department would help expedite repair work on the USS Providence and USS Miami.

He also said that demolition projects at the Submarine Base likely would be delayed because of sequestration, but the effect on federal construction projects at the base is still a question mark. Courtney said he also wasn't sure if passage of the continuing resolution would help the U.S. Coast Guard Academy avoid budget fallout, but funding for the Homeland Security department was boosted in the continuing resolution.

l.howard@theday.com

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