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June 22, 2020
Press Release

NORWICH, CT – Congressman Joe Courtney (CT-02), Chairman of the House Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee, issued the following the statement on the Navy’s award of the contracting options for the first two Columbia-class submarines in history to General Dynamics Electric Boat.

“Today’s announcement means ‘Game on’ for this exciting and transformational project that will shape our region’s economy for the next two decades—and I know that our talented shipbuilders of Electric Boat are up to the challenge,” Chairman Courtney said. “This award is the culmination of nearly a decade’s worth of preparation for this milestone moment for our region and our nation.  The replacement of our sea-based strategic deterrent comes only once every other generation, and this work is already fueling unprecedented growth in the workforce in Groton and transformation of the shipyard. This isn’t just good news for Groton—the work that will be done on this program will fuel activity at suppliers across our state and our nation for years to come. This exciting news is a testament to the hard work of countless designers, engineers and waterfront tradesmen and women who have worked so hard each and every day for more than a decade to see this day come.

“Since my first days in Congress, I’ve worked hard to make this program a reality, starting with securing some of the first initial funding to get started on deigning this new submarine, and working on a bipartisan basis to provide new contracting tools to ensure its success. That work continues tomorrow as we get started on the defense authorization bill that includes the authority to ensure the cost-effective purchase of these first two submarines and help get this program started on time.” 

The award today modifies the existing Integrated Product and Process Development (IPPD) contract to provide contracting options for the first two Columbia-class SSBNs, slated to begin in FY21 and FY24. The $10.3 billion contract modification includes $869 million awarded immediately for continued design completion, engineering work, and submarine industrial base expansion efforts, and $9.5 billion for a contract option for the first two Columbia-class submarines. The option for the two submarines is contingent on Congressional approval of required incremental funding authority and appropriations for the program in FY21.

The House Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee, which Courtney chairs, released today its piece of the 2021 National Defense Authorization bill, which includes a provision providing the needed incremental funding authority in the National Sea-based deterrence fund (NSBDF) to initiate the Columbia-class contracting options. The subcommittee will consider its mark tomorrow, Tuesday June 21, at 4:30pm.

“This news comes as we take the first steps in the Seapower Subcommittee tomorrow to fully restore a second Virginia-class submarine in 2021,” Courtney added. “This bipartisan initiative would reverse the confounding decision to eliminate a Virginia-class submarine and break the two-a-year build rate for the first time in a decade. We have heard Navy officials confirm that not only is there industrial base capacity to support this, but that restoration of their first and most urgent unfunded priority represents the most cost-effective and least disruptive way to mitigate the looming gap in undersea requirements. It’s unfortunate that the Administration made this strategically inadequate request in the first place, but I’m proud to lead the bipartisan effort to begin to reverse it in the interest of our industrial base and our nation’s long-term security.” 

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. 

Background on Chairman Courtney’s Efforts to Restore the Second 2021 Virginia-Class Submarine:

The FY21 budget requested one Virginia-class submarine, breaking the two-per-year build rate that has been in place since 2011. Since 2018, Congress has allocated $1.1 billion for the second submarine — including an additional $200 million just last year to support the sustained two-per-year build rate — and in language approved in the 2020 NDAA, which directed the Navy to submit a budget that supports a two-submarine budget in 2021.

On a bipartisan basis, Congress has panned the proposal to eliminate the second submarine

In March, Courtney led 111 members in urging the House Appropriations Committee to support restoration of the second submarine. The letter notes that "The proposal to request one attack submarine is contrary to the National Defense Strategy, the needs of our combatant commanders, and a decade of Congressional action in support of a steady two-a-year build rate.” The 112 members that joined this request represent 32 states, over 14,000 suppliers, and over $10 billion in manufacturing and support activity in the submarine supply chain.

In testimony before the House and Senate Armed Services Committee, Defense Department and Navy leaders stated that the submarine was subject to late-stage funding shifts, and that they were not involved in the decision to eliminate this submarine from the budget.

Navy leadership has listed the restoration of $2.7 billion to support a fully funded second FY21 Virginia-class submarine as its top unfunded budget priority this year. In response to questioning from Chairman Courtney, Chief of Naval operations Admiral Michael Gilday stated that “If you asked me, if I could give you another ship today, what would it be? It would be a Virginia-class submarine.”

In response to questioning from Chairman Courtney, Navy acquisition chief James Geurts affirmed the readiness of the industrial base to support the second 2021 submarine, telling the subcommittee that “I’m confident that they can execute the ship.”

While the Senate Armed Services Committee recently approved an additional $472 million for advanced procurement to support undefined additional submarine construction through 2023, the House Seapower mark recommends restoration of a fully funded second submarine in 2021, in alignment with the Navy’s top unfunded requirements request. In response to questioning from Chairman Courtney, Secretary Guerts told the Seapower Subcommittee that “This is the year – I would say we need to either add that ship in this year, or then we’ll just have to work on that at the start of Block VI."