WASHINGTON, DC – Slowly but surely, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2023 (FY23) is advancing its way through Congress. 

After winning overwhelming bipartisan approval in the U.S. House of Representatives last week, on a vote of 350-80, the full U.S. Senate is considering the NDAA this week.

The $847 billion NDAA specifies budgets and policies for the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) and the national security programs of the U.S. Department of Energy.  The legislation offers a blueprint to equip, supply, and train U.S. forces; provide for military families; and strengthen oversight of the Pentagon and military programs.

A key architect of the defense bill, U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI), the Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, says it will provide a major infusion of federal resources to continue fueling a historic expansion of good-paying manufacturing jobs for the Ocean State by investing in submarine production.

From General Dynamics Electric Boat (EB) facilities at Quonset Point in North Kingstown, Rhode Island to EB’s facility along the Thames River in Groton, Connecticut, the U.S. Navy’s submarines are constructed by an army of skilled workers from around the region and supported by numerous small businesses that provide critical materials and components.  When they are completed, the high-tech submarines provide the U.S. Navy with an unparalleled strategic deterrent that helps safeguard the nation.

“These next-generation submarines are a vital part of America’s nuclear triad and are essential for power projection, deterrence, intelligence, and sea control,” said Senator Reed.  “This year’s NDAA invests in submarine production and will help ramp up the skilled workforce needed to produce these state-of-the-art submarines for years to come.”

This month, the U.S. Navy laid the keel for the future USS Arizona (SSN-803), the thirtieth Virginia-class nuclear fast attack submarine, at Quonset Point in Rhode Island.

Chairman Reed says the bill includes vital investments for submarine development, procurement, production, maintenance, and research efforts in Rhode Island.  The bill authorizes a total of $14.7 billion for submarines this year, which means more advanced manufacturing work by Rhode Islanders at General Dynamics Electric Boat facilities at Quonset Point in North Kingstown.

In 2022, Electric Boat hired about 3,000 new workers, a 20 percent increase over 2021 hiring levels, with almost half of the new jobs based in Rhode Island.

This summer, EB held a keel-laying ceremony for the first Columbia-class ballistic missile submarine, USS District of Columbia (SSBN-826) at Quonset Point.

A dozen Columbia-class ships will be built to replace the existing fourteen Ohio-class nuclear-ballistic submarine force due to begin retiring from service in 2027.

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.

Overall, the FY23 defense bill 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);

Earlier this 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.

The full U.S. Senate is slated to consider the NDAA this week.  If it passes without amendment, the bill will be sent to President Biden’s desk to be signed into law.

This would mark the 62nd consecutive year that both chambers have come together on a bipartisan basis to approve a defense policy bill.