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    Friday, March 01, 2024

    Obama budget includes money for Virginia-class subs, Ohio replacement program

    The defense portion of President Barack Obama's budget proposal for the 2016 fiscal year includes $1.4 billion to continue the research and development of a new ballistic missile submarine, led by Electric Boat, and continued funding to build two Virginia-class attack submarines a year.

    With hopes of reversing sequestration cuts, Obama is proposing a $585 billion defense budget for 2016. The budget, as a whole, is more viewed as an outline of the president's priorities given many of his proposals are not expected to receive support from the Republican-controlled Congress.

    In a statement, U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, indicated his support for "full restoration of sequester cuts to both domestic and military spending."

    Cost-saving proposals that could impact the defense budget include a request for a new round of Base Realignment and Closure, or BRAC, in fiscal year 2017.

    "In my view, any threat to our base would be dead on arrival," U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn, said, adding that he's "closely questioned" the Joint Chiefs of Staffs and others, and "there seems to be no threat to our base" in Groton.

    Blumenthal called the defense portion of the budget "a very powerful and important vote of confidence in the Connecticut defense industrial base, which is so vital to our economic security and our national security."

    The budget, Blumenthal said, recognizes the central role of submarines in the future.

    "So it's a solid boost and a vote in confidence in the great work that our workers are doing at (Electric Boat)," he said, also acknowledging the thousands of related workers and subcontractors who constitute our defense industrial base.

    As for the defense-related items, two of the biggest programs for southeastern Connecticut are the Ohio-class replacement program, which would receive $1.4 billion under the president's proposal, and $5.7 billion for the Virginia-class submarine program. The Ohio replacement program is the development of a new ballistic missile submarine that will replace the retiring Ohio-class submarines.

    "This is the program that provides the continued strategic deterrence mission that's vital to the nation in the future after those Ohio-class submarines are retired," EB president Jeffrey Geiger said during his remarks at the company's annual legislative breakfast held in mid-January.

    "This is a very significant program, both today for us on the development side of our business, and longer term on the construction side," Geiger said.

    Current Navy plans call for 12 of the new submarines to be built. The submarine is in design today and will start construction around 2021, which is when work, already underway at EB, is expected to really ramp up.

    "It has a work content on the order of two and a half times what the Virginia-class submarine has," Geiger said, adding that the company is already "heavily engaged" with the program with "almost 3,000 engineers and designers on the job."

    The program overall is expected to cost $100 billion, according to Geiger, who said during the breakfast that it provides technological, construction and fiscal challenges.

    "It's a big number with a lot of competing interests and a lot of competing demands for tight federal dollars," Geiger said during his address. "This program will need the strong support of everybody to carry through in the matter in which it's planned. What's encouraging about it is there seems to be strong recognition of the need and the vital capability that the submarine will provide."

    Courtney, the newly elected ranking member of the Seapower Subcommittee, said he will be "working to ensure that our shipbuilding and Naval capabilities are robustly funded," including the Ohio program, " a significant but crucial once-in-a-generation expense."

    The Virginia-class program is the core of EB's operations today. Between EB and its partner, Newport News Shipbuilding, Geiger has said the two companies have delivered 11 of the submarines and 17 more in their backlog today, more than half of which are in some stage of construction.

    The president's proposal also includes $168 million for the continuing development of the Virginia Payload Module. The VPM, which will be incorporated on the newly constructed, longer Virginia-class submarines, has four large diameter payload tubes that provide additional missile capability. EB, which in 2014 received about $65 million for the continued design and development of the VPM, has more than 200 engineers and designers working on the program today.


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