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Navy awards $9.5 billion, two-sub contract to Electric Boat

The Navy announced Monday it has awarded a $9.5 billion contract to build the first two of 12 planned ballistic missile submarines, known as the Columbia class program, to Electric Boat — work that will take place over the next decade.

The Navy also announced that $869 million will be awarded immediately for “continued design completion, engineering work, and submarine industrial base expansion efforts.” That plus the $9.5 billion construction contract represent a $10.3 billion modification to the $5.1 billion design contract awarded to EB, the prime contractor for the Columbia program, in 2017.

“We stand ready to execute on this critical program and have made extensive preparations by hiring and training the next generation of skilled shipbuilders, expanding and modernizing our facilities and strengthening our supply base,” Kevin Graney, EB’s president, said in a statement Monday after the announcement of the contract.

General Dynamics, EB’s parent company, is investing $1.8 billion in its facilities to support the construction of the Columbia submarines including a new 200,000-square-foot building in the Groton shipyard where the submarines will be assembled.

EB plans to hire as many as 18,000 people over the next 10 years to work on the Columbia program and on the continued construction of attack submarines. The company currently has more than 16,000 employees.

U.S. Rep Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, said the commitment by the Navy “sends a very powerful message” not just to EB and Newport News Shipbuilding in Virginia, a subcontractor for the Columbia program, but to the entire submarine supply chain that “this is locked in,” enabling them to feel confident about making investments in hiring and other aspects of their businesses. 

“This is now in writing,” he said. “It’s not theoretical. It’s a legal commitment by the government.”

But Congress, which just started work on the fiscal year 2021 defense policy bill, still has to appropriate the funding for the construction of the two submarines.

Courtney said the money will be appropriated over several years and Congress also needs to authorize the ability for the program to be incrementally funded. As chairman of the seapower subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee, which has oversight of Navy shipbuilding programs, Courtney will be a major player in the discussions on the defense policy and spending bills for next fiscal year. The subcommitee released its proposals for the fiscal year 2021 defense policy bill Monday and will debate the proposals Tuesday.

Courtney said he doesn’t foresee much of a fight in Congress over supporting the Columbia program. Three presidential administrations, both Republican and Democrat, have committed to replacing the current, aging fleet of ballistic missile submarines with the new Columbia submarines and there’s been bipartisan support for every funding request in Congress for the Columbia program, he said. Ballistic missile submarines carry the majority of the country's active nuclear arsenal.

Early construction on the Columbia submarines began in 2017 at the EB’s facility in Quonset Point, R.I. Final assembly and test of the Columbia submarines will take place starting in 2024 at EB’s Groton shipyard.

In a statement, U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said Monday’s announcement is “welcome news” and recognizes the “unmatched skills and dedication" of EB’s workforce.

“Our nation is counting on Electric Boat and its suppliers to produce the Columbia on time, and on budget, as they have done other sub classes. Our national defense depends on our sub makers’ time-honored excellence,” he said.

U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., applauded the news in a statement saying the "Navy’s investment today in the future of Connecticut manufacturing will provide more highly skilled jobs for our state."

"I’ll continue to use my seat on the Appropriations Committee to keep these wins coming," Murphy said.


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