Courtney Receives Testimony on the Need to Sustain Submarine Production and Workforce Investment to Support the Industrial Base
WASHINGTON, D.C. —Today, Congressman Joe Courtney (CT-02) received testimony in a House Armed Services Committee hearing from Admiral John Richardson, the Chief of Naval Operations, about the growing international challenges faced by the United States, and how U.S. Combatant Commanders need sustained submarine production over the next two decades to meet those challenges. Courtney also received testimony at a separate Education and Workforce Committee hearing from Secretary of Labor Tom Perez on workforce development efforts in a number of industries, including the workforce pipeline in eastern Connecticut to support job growth at the Electric Boat shipyard and associated suppliers.
First, in an House Armed Services Committee (HASC) hearing, Courtney highlighted the economic and jobs impact of increased shipbuilding under the leadership of Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, noting that “I see it every day in eastern Connecticut.”
In an exchange with Admiral John Richardson, the Chief of Naval Operations, Courtney highlighted testimony he has received from both current and former defense officials over the last several weeks about the challenge of meeting submarine requirements at current force levels – and the concern about the ability to do so as the fleet drops in the coming decade, even as undersea acidity around the world is increasing.
Courtney said: “we have a force structure that was developed back ten years ago. We need 48 submarines in the fleet, we have 54 now – but they are under stress” and asked Admiral Richardson if we needed to reevaluate the current attack submarine force structure requirement.
Richardson told Courtney that: “Sir, we do and I’ve started that look right now as part of our updated force structure assessment. That will include a comprehensive look at the attack submarine force levels.”
Courtney and Richardson also discussed Virginia class production rates and the need to sustain the two a year build rate of Virginia-class submarines to mitigate the looming force structure shortfall in attack submarines.
Richardson told Courtney that: “we’ve done an intense look at the industrial base over the last year, we think we can mitigate that further particularly in ’21. There may be industrial capacity to build an additional Virginia class submarine in that year – that would make it 10 over the 5 year plan. We look forward to discussing that with you. That would mitigate that trough somewhat.”
In a separate Education and Workforce Committee hearing this morning, Courtney asked Sec. Perez to discuss the success of workforce development initiatives connected to the Workforce Investment Opportunity Act (WIOA) and other programs, particularly in an effort to supporting the growing shipbuilding industrial base.
Courtney stated to Sec. Perez: “Down the hall right now the Sec. of Navy is talking about the fact that in the last seven years, they Navy has put under contract eighty-four ships and submarines, while during the prior eight years it was only forty-one. So you can imagine what that means in terms of the industrial base, whether it’s Connecticut, or Virginia, or California. We have really had to move fast in terms of metal trades, engineering, and design.
“In January, Electric Boat announced 1500 hires this year to accommodate that demand signal from the Navy. And it’s been all hands on deck, which the WIOA Act and the Workforce Board is today prdocugin results which would not have been the case without passage of that law and without the omnibus which has given the workforce innovation funds that are now combining community colleges, tech schools, and the employer who are now working together to fill this huge workforce need. Again, if you go online today there are probably 300 or 400 job openings [at Electric Boat] right now as we sit here in this room, that’s just for the shipyard, as you go further out there are 470+ suppliers in Connecticut and thousands across the country.
“There were in town just a couple of weeks ago – the submarine industrial base coalition. The timing of this new mechanism as well as the resources that are out there, take one little sector like shipbuilding [for example], a much neglected part of the economy, you guys are at the center of trying to solve that problem, and I’m sure that’s happening in other parts of the country as well as eastern Connecticut.”
Sec. Perez responded affirmatively that support of the manufacturing pipeline initiative targeted at Electric Boat in eastern Connecticut is part of a concerted nationwide effort to support worker retraining and growing industries:
Perez said: “I remember my trip vividly, Mr. Courtney, to Electric Boat, and I remember my trip with Congresswoman Fox to a number of locations within her district, and I remember my trip with Chairman Rogers to West Virginia to visit a bunch of displaced coal miners who are now working in coding at a place called bitsource. And their moto was from coal to code. What all of those three visits have in common is that workforce investment system being a remarkable engine of partnership, innovation and success.”
The discussion centered on the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act passed in 2014, which Congressman Courtney worked closely on as a member of the House Education and Workforce Committee. This legislation governs workforce development programs, including educational offerings and worker retraining programs. Last year, Three Rivers and Quinebaug Community Colleges in Connecticut received grant funding from the Department of Labor to continue the successful pilot Advanced Manufacturing Program, which has led to new employees at Electric Boat, including some who met with Secretary Perez and Congressman Courtney on today’s tour.
In September 2015, the Eastern Connecticut Workforce Investment board received a $6 million grant from the Department of Labor to promote the manufacturing pipeline intended to train, and retain workers for careers in the metal trades and engineering careers. This program will provide significant support for Electric Boat which plan to add 1,500 new positons this year in 2016.