Chairman Courtney Statement as Navy Awards Contract to Construct First Ever Columbia-Class Submarine to Groton’s Electric Boat
VERNON, CT – Today, Congressman Joe Courtney (CT-02), Chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces, released the following statement after the U.S. Navy officially awarded General Dynamics Electric Boat the contract to construct the first ever, next-generation Columbia-class submarine. Courtney has led and shepherded the creation of the Columbia-class program from bow to stern, beginning in 2008 when he secured $8 million to initiate the first design concept studies for a new sea-based deterrent submarine. Today’s contract award was made possible by a provision that Rep. Courtney worked to include in the House’s short-term budget extension (H.R. 8337), click here to learn more.
Earlier today, Assistant Secretary of the Navy James F. Geurts provided Chairman Courtney’s Seapower Subcommittee staff with a direct briefing on the new contract award. The Seapower Subcommittee has direct oversight of U.S. Navy shipbuilding, and as Chairman, Rep. Courtney has continued to build strong bipartisan support to see the Columbia-class Program through to launch.
“Today's announcement makes the hard work, planning and advocacy for this generational program real,” said Chairman Courtney. “This isn’t just a milestone for the shipbuilders at EB—the Columbia-class program will also be a major opportunity for industry partners up and down the supply chain for years to come, and a foundational piece for our region’s economic future. Generations of shipbuilders and manufacturers will get their start working on this multi-decade program, and it’s an exciting time to get more people into the pipeline for the jobs and opportunities that will come with the start of this effort.
“This award was a long time coming, but it didn’t come without some challenges late in the game,” Courtney added. “Just a few weeks ago, we worked to ensure that the continuing resolution which prevented a government shutdown included the funding the Navy needed to issue the contract on time. Despite the strong bipartisan support for Columbia, this wasn’t a given—I and other members of the Connecticut and Rhode Island delegations had to make the case to the House leadership to include this provision. Our case prevailed, and the House bill, which was later passed by the Senate September 30, 2020, ensured that the Navy had everything it needed to make today’s announcement possible.”
“As Chairman of the House Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee with oversight of the Columbia program, I’ll continue to do all I can to ensure that our shipbuilders and our Navy have the tools and support they need to make this program a success. I know that the hard-working men and women of Electric Boat are up to the job.”
Today’s contract award will see construction officially begin on the new Columbia-class submarine program beginning this fall of 2020, as planned. The award to begin construction was only made possible thanks to a provision that Chairman Courtney worked to include in the short-term Continuing Appropriations Act (CR) (H.R. 8337), which passed the House on September 22nd and funds the federal government through December 11, 2020. Chairman Courtney’s provision in the House-version of the CR provided the specific authorizations necessary for the Navy to award a contract and begin construction on a new program under a short-term budget extension—which is not typical under an ordinary CR.
Background on Chairman Courtney’s Support for the Columbia-Class Submarine Program:
In 2008, Courtney helped secure $8 million to initiate the first design and concept studies for a new sea-based strategic deterrent submarine. At the time, and for the first time in 50 years, Electric Boat was not actively designing a new submarine, raising concerns about the future viability of the design workforce and the viability of a new sea-based deterrence submarine.
Courtney championed the creation of the National Sea-Based Deterrence Fund (NSBDF) in 2015 to finance the construction of the Columbia-class by providing the Department of Defense flexibility and authority to allocate funds from across the budget into this account to elevate the importance of the Columbia program as critical to our national security. The FY16 NDAA provided additional authorities within the NSBDF including incremental funding, advanced procurement, Economic Order Quantity (EOQ), and clarified that reprogramming authority provided in the creation of the fund in the year previous extended to the entire Department of Defense, not just the Navy.
In 2014, Courtney worked with the EWIB and EB to secure funding for the Eastern Connecticut Manufacturing Pipeline, a program that identifies underemployed adults, veterans, and tech savvy students to contribute to the submarine industry. By working in concert with local high schools, community colleges, trade schools, and American Job Centers, the manufacturing Pipeline Initiative has placed 1,350 people in jobs, with over 1,100 of them supporting submarine construction since its inception.
In September 2019, Courtney helped break ground at Electric Boat’s new South Yard Assembly Building, the new production facility designed specifically for the construction of the Columbia-class.
In June 2020, Courtney helped announce the award of the Columbia-class construction contract to EB.
In September 2020, Courtney voted to pass the short-term CR that included his provision that ensured Columbia-class construction would begin on time this year, as scheduled.