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Congressman Joe Courtney’s Remarks at the Christening of the USS Oregon

October 7, 2019
Press Release

GROTON, CT – Today, Congressman Joe Courtney (CT-02), Chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces, will participate in the christening ceremony for the future USS Oregon, the U.S. Navy’s newest Virginia-class submarine which was constructed in part by the men and women of General Dynamics Electric Boat in Groton. The Congressman’s opening remarks as prepared for delivery are included below:

October 5, 2019

Thank you to Kevin Graney, the new President of Electric Boat, for the kind invitation to participate in Oregon’s christening and congratulations to you on your return to Electric Boat at a historic moment of growth and change at this shipyard.  

The presence today of your partner, Jen Boykin of Newport News Shipbuilding, and of Navy leadership, Admiral Kilby and Deputy Assistant Secretary Anderson, represents the intense collaboration of industry and the Navy to execute the Virginia and Columbia programs so critical to our national defense. Welcome also to my colleague in the U.S. House, Greg Walden, who is a senior member of the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee, and who deserves great praise for his fine bipartisan work in addressing the heroin opioid crisis, getting critical federal resources out to save lives and stop this national scourge that has hurt so many American families, and I want to publicly thank him for his efforts. 

Finally, it is a pleasure to welcome back to Groton the ship’s sponsor and Oregon native Dana Richardson and former Chief of Naval Operations John Richardson. The Admiral and Mrs. Richardson were stationed here when he commanded DEVRON 12, and most recently attended the USS Illinois christening. I can’t think of a ship sponsor better prepared to take on the solemn duty to support the ship and its crew over the lifetime of Oregon than Mrs. Richardson. 

As has been said, the Oregon is the 20th Virginia-class, and the second of the ten-boat block IV contract, whose procurement Congress authorized and appropriated in 2014. Looking around this facility in the presence of two other submarines under construction, it is easy to see that Oregon is part of a large, new generational effort to build a submarine fleet for the 21st century. 

As construction has ramped up at a steady clip, the state of the growing and changing submarine workforce in this region is constantly under a microscope. A few weeks ago, the U.S. Department of Labor issued a report card for the Eastern Connecticut Manufacturing Pipeline Initiative, a program that was stood up five years ago to accelerate pre-apprenticeship training to close the skills gap and fill jobs in metal trades, design and operations. Its review was stellar – the program ranked in the 95th percentile for job placement compared to similar initiatives around the country.  

The success of this program far exceeded all expectations. Initially expected to result in 300 job placements, to date more than 1,500 people have gone through the program and landed well-paying jobs right here at Electric Boat and a hundred other companies across the state. 

The benefits are not merely limited to the trainees, however – employers like EB have experienced a 50% reduction in both new hire training time and attrition rate for employees hired through the pipeline. This leads to thousands of hours and millions of taxpayer dollars saved.  

This initiative has been years in the making, tracing back to a $6 million federal grant awarded in 2015 to establish the program, and it is a proud moment for Eastern Connecticut to see its efforts are being validated at the national level. And the timing could not be better – this past January, the shipyard workforce passed the 17,000 mark and with new work and attrition, EB will need to hire up to 14,000 more by the mid-2020s. Kevin and his team will have their hands full, but we now have a model in place that we know works – and the successful christening of the Oregon is tangible proof that is does.  

Congratulations to Electric Boat and the many skilled hands that were brought together over the last two years to achieve this milestone. I look forward to seeing the future of both this and the submarine force at large flourish in our great state of Connecticut.