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    Saturday, July 13, 2024

    Aussies at EB? Courtney says AUKUS to have growing impact on the region

    U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, said Thursday that AUKUS, the trilateral security agreement to help supply Australia with nuclear-powered submarines, will have a growing impact on Connecticut, home to Groton, the “submarine capital of the world,” and Electric Boat.

    Courtney said there was recognition early on that the arrangement needed to include ensuring Australia has the naval proficiency to command and control the submarines.

    Under the agreement among Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States, the first three Royal Australian Navy officers arrived a few weeks ago in Groton to attend the submarine base’s Naval Submarine School and will be “followed by dozens and dozens more.”

    Courtney spoke during a discussion Thursday with Paul Myler, the deputy chief of mission for the Australian Embassy; and Megan Torrey, the CEO of the World Affairs Council of Connecticut and community ambassador to the Navy. The event was held at the University of Saint Joseph in West Hartford and livestreamed.

    During Thursday’s discussion, Courtney and Myler discussed the importance of preserving a free and open Indo-Pacific region and the impacts AUKUS will have on Connecticut.

    Among the agreement’s impacts on Connecticut, Courtney said, are that partnerships are being built between universities in the United States and in Australia, including between the University of Connecticut and the University of Adelaide in Australia.

    Courtney said Australia previously announced it is prepared to invest $3 billion into the United States submarine industrial base. He said the defense bill passed in December authorizes the U.S. Department of Defense to accept funding from another country for that purpose.

    Another provision in the defense bill creates a pathway for Australian foreign nationals, who want to learn the metal trades or design trades, to go into the Electric Boat shipyard and learn skills. The U.S. Department of State is slated to issue rules and regulations, and Courtney said he heard that it should be in place this summer.

    Myler said a potential career path of working at Electric Boat in Groton and also working for a period in Australia, popping over to Hawaii or working in the United Kingdom could interest young people in the career.

    “You’re going to see a lot of Australians here,” Myler said. “We’re going to expect to see a lot of your tradesmen coming our direction, and the key is to grow the pie by making this a much more attractive world to live and thrive in, and I think just having those few more shipyards and those few more maintenance yards in some good locations is going to be really good.”

    The AUKUS agreement was first announced in September of 2021. About a year ago, United States President Joe Biden, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese announced the AUKUS Optimal Pathway on how they will move forward.

    The agreement calls for a rotational force deploying U.S. submarines out of western Australia, from 2027; the planned sale of United States Virginia class submarines to Australia, starting in the 2030s; and Australia building and delivering its first SSN-AUKUS submarine to the Royal Australian Navy in the 2040s, among other components, according to a 2023 White House fact sheet.

    With the help of Courtney and his colleagues in Congress, that partnership also creates a license-free environment for co-development and collaboration on technologies.

    “In three years, we have radically transformed the way we look at the defense industrial base between our three countries,” Myler said.

    k.drelich@theday.com

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