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House Armed Services Committee approves more than $14 billion for submarine construction

The U.S. House Armed Services Committee advanced an approximately $810 billion defense budget bill, which contains provisions aimed at Connecticut’s defense manufacturing industry, for fiscal year 2023 on Thursday.

The Senate Armed Services Committee passed its iteration of the yearly National Defense Authorization Act last week. Legislators will seek a compromise between the two packages in a conference committee later this year.

Connecticut U.S. Rep Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, chairman of the Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee, helped secure $14.6 billion for submarine procurement, repair, research and development.

“At a time when many people wonder if Congress can work together and get things done, I'm proud that our committee has once again shown that we can do exactly that,” Courtney said in a Thursday morning news release. “The defense authorization we completed this morning builds on the President’s budget request in several key areas, especially in building out our long-term naval and shipbuilding efforts. I’m proud that the committee approved the bipartisan work our subcommittee did to take a hard look at the near and long-term needs of our shipbuilding industry, our Navy and Marine Corps, and our nation’s security requirements.”

Parts of the bill that relate to eastern Connecticut include $6.5 billion for the building of two Virginia-class submarines per year. Of that, $4.5 billion will go to two submarines to be built in 2023, while the other $2 billion will support procurement and future construction of submarines through 2025.

Congress already passed, and President Joe Biden signed, an omnibus bill with $12.5 billion for submarine procurement, repair work and research and development, all at Electric Boat in Groton, earlier this year. That bill funds the two-per-year build rate of new Virginia-class submarines in 2022 and beyond, providing $35 million for shipyard and industrial base improvements.

The House bill approved Thursday also stipulates $3.1 billion for the second year of funding for the first Columbia-class submarine, as well as $2.8 billion to support building the second Columbia-class submarine.

Electric Boat held a keel-laying ceremony earlier in June to mark the beginning of construction for the submarine District of Columbia (SSBN 826), the first of its new namesake class of boats. Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro, who delivered the ceremony’s keynote address, said at the time that Columbia-class submarines “will be the cornerstone of our national security” and will represent 70% of the U.S.’s nuclear arsenal.

“The Columbia now is the largest single shipbuilding program in the Navy’s budget,” Courtney said at the ceremony. “Its production facilities have transformed the skylines of Quonset Point, Groton and Newport News. The dramatic hiring in southern New England over the last decade has elevated Electric Boat to the position of the number one private employer in both Connecticut and Rhode Island, which will continue into the 2030s.”

The House NDAA bill includes a $750 million allocation for the submarine industrial base, of which $541 million will go to “submarine supplier development, shipyard infrastructure, strategic outsourcing, and technology opportunities,” according to a news release from Courtney’s office. The remaining $227 million will support workforce development.

“For eastern Connecticut, this bill comes at an exciting time as the years of work to increase submarine production and build up a skilled workforce have culminated in a massive expansion of the Groton shipyard and the supply chain that supports it,” Courtney said in Thursday’s news release. “With thousands of new hires in this year alone, this bill ensures that we keep the momentum up and reflects the central importance of the work done every day by our region’s shipbuilders to our nation’s security.”

The bill provides more than $1 billion for research and development of future submarine capabilities. “These efforts are vital to sustaining the health of the design and engineering workforce at Electric Boat,” Courtney’s office noted.

Around $20 million would go to partnerships with academic institutions researching undersea capabilities for submarines. One such program, the National Institute of Undersea Vehicle Technology, is a collaboration between the University of Connecticut and the University of Rhode Island. The bill allocates $22 million for testing of remote acoustic sensors, “which will help the Navy evaluate existing off-the-shelf platforms like those developed by Groton’s ThayerMahan,” Courtney’s office said.

The legislation puts $8.5 million toward research and development to improve advanced submarine maneuverability, “like those currently under development at Progeny Systems in Groton,” Courtney’s office wrote. The bill also would dedicate $15.5 million for a military construction project at Naval Submarine Base in Groton. The project is “to relocate the existing underwater electromagnetic measurement system due to planned construction of a floating dry dock at Electric Boat in support of the Columbia-class submarine program.”

Once the conference committee comes to a compromise, the bill will go to the House and Senate, and if passed, will go to the President Biden’s desk for his signature. The House Appropriations Committee approved almost $762 billion for the 2023 defense budget on Wednesday — the committee could add another $15.1 billion for military construction projects in a separate bill it is set to vote on. The NDAA authorizes the amount of money that can be used on defense spending, but does not have the ability to appropriate funding, as the appropriations bill does.

s.spinella@theday.com

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