NORTH KINGSTOWN, RI – After working for years to ensure the U.S. Navy can ramp up submarine construction to help safeguard the nation and provide the U.S. Armed Forces with an unmatched advantage beneath the waves, U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) says it is critical for Rhode Island to boost workforce development to help Rhode Islanders take advantage of the opportunity for good-paying, in-demand manufacturing jobs.

This week, Senator Reed joined Electric Boat (EB) President Kevin Graney and elected officials from Connecticut and Rhode Island for an annual legislative update.  The submarine maker announced plans to add a total of 2,200 jobs in 2021 at its facilities in both Connecticut and Rhode Island.  Mr. Graney projected that most of the new hires will be at Quonset Point, where Electric Boat expects to add about 1,300 new workers.

Electric Boat, a division of General Dynamics Corp, currently employs more than 4,000 people in Rhode Island, most involved with submarine production at Quonset Point, as well as at an engineering office outside of Newport.

The company is facing a major backlog of production as it works to build two new Columbia-class submarines and 19 new Virginia-class submarines, 11 of which are currently under various stages of construction.

During the virtual meeting, Senator Reed, the top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), stated: “This is more good news for job creation in Rhode Island.  The additional jobs for tradespeople are the result of a long fight that led to increasing production of Virginia-class submarines and starting production of the Columbia-class strategic missile submarine.”

Reed notes: “These next generation submarines are a vital part of America’s nuclear triad and are essential for power projection, deterrence, intelligence, and sea control.  President Trump proposed cutting a submarine in his 2021 budget, but I led efforts to sustain the two-a-year build rate because it is a smart investment that bolsters national security and benefits Rhode Island while saving taxpayers’ money.  Thousands of Rhode Islanders build the backbones of these boats and provide our nation with a strategic, technological advantage.  There will be a steady workload at Quonset for years to come.  We must ensure that Rhode Island workers are well-trained and prepared to fill these job opportunities.  That means having the right training programs and workforce development pipeline in place to match people with in-demand skills.”

To help meet this workforce goal, Senator Reed, who also serves on the Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, has successfully secured $28 million over the last two years to support submarine industrial base workforce training and education initiatives. This federal funding has assisted the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training (DLT) to partner with area schools, Electric Boat, and other employers to train the next generation of employees in the highly-skilled trades needed for submarine construction.  And last year, the U.S. Department of Defense awarded $18.6 million to the Southeastern New England Defense Industry Alliance (SENEDIA) to develop a robust regional workforce development partnership that includes institutions like the Community College of Rhode Island (CCRI) and New England Institute of Technology, as well as members of the submarine supply chain.

“We want to help put more Rhode Islanders to work in good paying jobs and SENEDIA is bringing together leaders from academia, the industrial base, and the workforce development sectors in a coordinated, collaborative way to help shift the workforce development effort into high gear.  It is critical that we are connecting people with the right tools and training to develop in-demand skills and launch their own careers that will contribute to the manufacturing of the most advanced submarines in the world,” said Reed.

In terms of submarine production, the new submarines get their start in Rhode Island and then are completed in Groton, Connecticut and in a separate shipyard, Huntington Ingalls Industries in Newport News, Virginia.

Currently, Electric Boat employs about 17,000 people at its facilities in Groton, Connecticut and at Quonset Point.

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’s FY2021 budget submission estimates the total procurement cost of the 12-ship class at $109.8 billion in then-year dollars.

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.

“This increased workload 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.