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Use of Defense Production Act critical to sub production

At a time when many of us were busy planning our holiday gatherings, President Joe Biden with little fanfare signed a memorandum aimed at easing supply chain tangles for the submarine building industry. The move uses the Defense Production Act and recognizes the vital role of the Virginia class submarine to the nation's defense.

"I find that action to expand the domestic production capability for these supply chains is necessary to avert an industrial resource or critical technology item shortfall that would severely impair national defense capability," Biden wrote in the Dec. 21 memo. "Ensuring a robust, resilient and competitive domestic defense industrial base that has the capability, capacity and workforce to meet the Virginia class submarine undersea warfighting mission is essential to our national security."

The DPA, rooted are in the Korean war era, allows presidents broad powers to reorient manufacturing to prioritize items considered vital to the national interest. President Biden, as did President Trump before him, used the DPA to boost production of items that were critically needed during the COVID-19 pandemic. DPA was used, for example, to bolster production of much-needed personal protective equipment and vaccines.

While those previous pandemic-related moves were essential to the nation's public health, the Dec. 21 presidential action is just as essential to the nation's defense. In addition, the move is particularly good news for the region. First, the president calls the mission of the Virginia class submarine essential to national security. Second, and most important, the move should help ensure the continuation of robust submarine manufacturing at the Electric Boat shipyards in both Groton and Quonset Point, Rhode Island into the future.

The shipyards, and both the existing and anticipated future expanded workforce at Electric Boat, are vital to a healthy regional economy. This includes the engineering and design workforce at Electric Boat's New London facility.

The move also comes at a critical juncture for submarine manufacturing as both the Navy and shipbuilders are reporting supply chain shortfalls and delays, as well as workforce, production, supplies and space problems.

While we all have become well-acquainted with various supply chain and workforce shortage issues during the pandemic, problems plaguing the defense industry are far more serious than having our latest Amazon order be delayed or not finding our favorite brands at the supermarket. If submarine production is tied in knots, a national security risk could result.

In an opinion piece published earlier this month in the Connecticut Mirror, U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, who heads the House Seapower and and Projection Forces Subcommittee, pointed out the essential roles submarines play. He wrote about illegal activities by both the Chinese and Russian navies, for example. China has encroached on territorial waters in the Philippines and Vietnam and Russia has claimed sea control and seized Ukrainian naval ships in the Black Sea and north Atlantic. While missile technology developed by both countries puts U.S. Navy surface ships at risk, U.S. submarines are not vulnerable to these missiles, Courtney pointed out.

Virginia class submarines are currently being built at a rate of two per year. Congress is considering increasing that number.

"Scaling the production of Virginia Class Attack submarines will ensure the U.S. Navy can meet its missions to maintain open sea lanes for global communication and commerce, enhance diplomatic partnerships, and grow a robust underwater warfare capability," according to a recent news release by the Department of Defense.

We agree invoking the DPA for this vital national defense need was the right move. Further, we commend the president's action.

The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Tim Dwyer, Managing Editor Izaskun E. Larrañeta, staff writer Erica Moser and retired deputy managing editor Lisa McGinley. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.

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