WARWICK, RI -- On Monday, March 6, U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI), the Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), will join General Dynamics Electric Boat (EB) for their annual legislative update meeting.  The in-person event, hosted by EB President Kevin Graney, will provide updates on the company’s accomplishments during the past year and projections for 2023.


As SASC Chairman, Reed is a key architect of the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which directs federal investments in submarine production.


Reed says submarine building is critical to America’s national security and Rhode Island’s economy.   He is optimistic that thousands more good-paying submarine production jobs will be coming to Rhode Island and also sees challenges to hire and maintain enough workers for these mission-critical jobs building next-generation submarines. 


“The good news is a lot of new jobs and opportunities are coming to Rhode Island and Connecticut.  We have a chance to strengthen our economy for generations to come, but there is also the challenge of ensuring the workforce pipeline and training is in place to fill all these jobs,” noted Reed.  “The men and women who build these submarines are essential to our nation’s defense.  It is vital that the federal government, state and local governments, and private industry and academic institutions strategically work together to recruit, train, and connect people to in-demand skills and good-paying jobs.  We also need to grow the base of submarine industry suppliers as well.”


In addition to leading SASC, Senator Reed also serves on the Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense.  Last year he delivered $14.5 billion for U.S. Navy submarine construction, procurement, and research & development priorities in the FY 2023 Consolidated Appropriations law.  This builds on the $13 billion for submarines Senator Reed helped deliver in FY 2022. 


This level of federal investment and amount of construction work has resulted in a significant hiring demand in Rhode Island.  EB is expected to announce plans to hire 5,750 more workers this year: 1,300 trades positions in Groton; 1,500 positions at its Quonset Point facility in Rhode Island; 1,450 engineering and design positions; and 1,500 other jobs.


That comes on the heels of EB hiring 3,900 new employees in 2022.  All told, EB has about 20,000 workers with over 6,500 based in Rhode Island.


Senator Reed noted that EB has not been immune to supply chain snags and other global forces that have slowed production.  He also pointed out how far submarine manufacturing has come in Rhode Island over the last few decades.


“There has been a sea change in terms of the jobs outlook at Quonset today versus when I started in Congress.  Back then, EB was laying people off left and right and there wasn’t enough work to go around.  The Bush Administration was cutting back on subs in favor of other defense priorities.  Now, the military recognizes the strategic importance and deterrence submarines provide and EB is working around the clock to bring new hires aboard.  The Navy has overhauled its entire submarine acquisition and sustainment enterprise and we’re building as many advanced submarines as possible,” said Reed.  “The new hiring is good but this is a momentous challenge and we’ve got to get more trained workers with the right skills on the production line to ensure both construction and sustainment.”


EB workers are currently working to build two Virginia-class attack subs a year.  And in December, the company was awarded a $5.1 billion DoD contract for the construction of the first two Columbia-class submarines.


The 12-ship Columbia-class will replace the aging fleet of 14 Ohio-class nuclear ballistic submarines, which are a strategic deterrent and key component of the nuclear triad.  At 560 feet long with a submerged displacement of nearly 21,000 tons, the Columbia-class submarines are larger than the submarines they are replacing and will provide the Navy with advanced technology and new capabilities.  The Columbia-class submarines will be powered by electric-drive propulsion and use a nuclear reactor to generate energy.


U.S. Navy officials have labeled the Columbia-class its top acquisition priority.  The Navy estimates the total procurement cost of the 12-ship class at $112.7 billion in then-year dollars.


Last year, Senator Reed helped the Southeastern New England Defense Industry Alliance (SENEDIA) secure a $20.4 million contract extension from DOD to continue efforts to coordinate a robust regional workforce development partnership that will serve as a pipeline to help connect workers with employment opportunities that contribute to the production of submarines and coordinate supply chain partnerships necessary to deliver two Virginia-class submarines and one Columbia-class submarine annually.


Overall, the FY23 NDAA authorizes:


•           $6.6 billion to fully support construction of two Virginia-class submarines, with over $4.5 billion for two submarines in 2023 and $2 billion in advance procurement to support future construction in 2024 and 2025;

•           $5.9 billion to fully support the Columbia-class (Ohio-class Replacement) Program, including $543 million to support stability in the submarine industrial base;

•           $207 million for workforce and training initiatives to support the production of the Columbia-class ballistic missile submarine and the continued construction of the Virginia-class submarine;

•           $65 million for Navy applied research on undersea warfare technologies, led by the Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC);


In 2018, Electric Boat broke ground on a 1-million-square-foot, $800-million multi-year expansion of its manufacturing facilities at Quonset Point.  Senator Reed has worked for years to help fund improvements in and around the Quonset Business Park to help attract and retain business in the area.


“The increased workload we are seeing today is a testament to the skill and dedication of our defense manufacturing workforce and the local suppliers who contribute to the production of these next-generation submarines.  We must do everything we can to ensure they are well-trained and well-equipped to safely do their jobs and contribute to the mission of protecting our nation,” concluded Senator Reed.