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Courtney-led effort to restore Virginia-class submarine contract culminates in Navy announcement

The Navy on Friday officially awarded a contract for construction of a second Virginia-class submarine in 2021, a sign that things will keep humming at Electric Boat in Groton and at Newport News Shipbuilding in Virginia.

The awarding of a contract for a 10th submarine as part of a historic five-year shipbuilding contract known as Block V marks the culmination of a bipartisan effort led by U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, to restore a ship the Trump administration had sought to eliminate. Along the way, Congress voted for the first time to overturn a presidential veto in order to pass the National Defense Authorization Act.

Courtney said Friday the contract award will help preserve jobs at the shipyards, which over the past decade have collaborated on construction of two Virginia-class subs a year. The Block V contract, awarded in 2019, called for nine submarines and included an option for a tenth.

“The Navy’s announcement today of contract execution for the ‘option’ Virginia-class submarine — funded in last year’s NDAA and FY 2021 Omnibus budget — is the exclamation point on Congress’s efforts to protect our nation’s submarine fleet and industrial base,” Courtney, chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces, said in a statement. “Almost exactly a year ago, the Trump White House sent Congress its 2021 budget that sought to eliminate this ‘option’ sub, which would have disrupted the two-per-year production cadence in the Virginia program that has been in place since 2011.

"To put it bluntly," Courtney said, "that cut would have caused layoffs in New England and Virginia, as well as further decline in the Navy’s aging, shrinking fleet.”

Courtney’s committee took the lead in rewriting the budget tables for the Navy’s shipbuilding plan, the congressman said.

“Our rewrite passed in the House both in the NDAA and Appropriations bills with overwhelming bipartisan votes, and was later adopted by the Senate in Conference Committee," he said. "It was even belatedly endorsed by the Trump budget director last November. Today’s award announcement will stabilize the program’s workforce, and keep recapitalization of the attack submarine fleet on track."

Nineteen of the nuclear-powered, cruise-missile-firing Virginia-class attack subs are in service, 12 are under construction and contracts for seven more now have been awarded. The latest submarines carry a price tag of about $2.5 billion, Courtney said.

U.S. Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, both Connecticut Democrats, issued statements praising the Navy's announcement.

“The awarding of this 10th Virginia-class submarine marks a hard fought victory,” Blumenthal, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said. “It is a clear-eyed recognition of a stark military reality — that our national defense requires it. And it’s a significant vote of confidence in Connecticut’s highly skilled and dedicated workers who build the best submarines on the planet to protect and defend our nation. ... I will continue to urge the Navy to complete our goal of building a total of 11 Virginia-class submarines, as Electric Boat is more than up to the task of building the boats America needs to defend itself.”

Murphy, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said the additional submarine will help sustain thousands of jobs in Connecticut “and provide long-term stability to the thousands of small Connecticut companies that support our defense manufacturing sector.”

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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