Senator: The Submarine is America’s ‘Strategic, Decisive Edge’
By RICHARD R. BURGESS, Managing Editor
WASHINGTON — There was an air of optimism in a crowded room in the basement of the Rayburn Building on Capitol Hill, where dozens of congressmen, staffers and defense industry executives gathered in a crowded room to hammer home the importance of the submarine to the U.S. Navy and the nation, and to the industrial base that builds them.
On March, 1 the Submarine Industrial Base Council (SIBC) held its annual Supplier Day, which gives the companies that build components for submarines the opportunity for their representatives to lobby their congressmen in person. Several senators and representatives of states where the components are built addressed the gathering in short speeches that sometimes gave the event the air of a pep rally.
The speakers, veterans of the Hill and new representatives, spoke of the contributions their states or districts make to building — or in one case retiring the reactors of — the Navy’s submarines.
Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and in whose state major structures of submarines are assembled by 3,600 Electric Boat employees, recalled that the Submarine Caucus was formed in 1991 to protect the Seawolf-class attack submarine and stressed the caucus’s value today.
“The submarine is the strategic, decisive edge we have, technologically,” Reed said. “The [Columbia-class ballistic-missile] submarine is the most critical part of the [nation’s nuclear] triad.”
“We are in a century of undersea warfare and cyber,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn. “That is our future.”
The Navy’s submarines, Blumenthal said, “make sure we will never have a fair fight.”
Rep. Joe Courtney, D-Conn., credited the SIBC with helping to get Congress to authorize the Columbia-class submarine, noting that “the Columbia class is in really good shape. That doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Getting suppliers from all across the country is key to the success in getting members [of Congress] to pass the budget.”
“Our submarine industrial base is critical to where the Navy needs to be,” said Rob Wittman, R-Va., chairman of the House Armed Services seapower and projection forces subcommittee, noting that the current status of shipbuilding will help the Navy to grow its fleet.
“We have hot production lines with mature designs,” Wittman said. “It is the submarine that is key to that Navy presence around the world.”
Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., stressed the importance of training new shipyard workers and engineers to keep a “strong, highly skilled defense capacity” and expressed hope that federal funding would be applied to accomplish such training. She said that General Dynamics Electric Boat is hiring 2,000 workers in 2017, with 1,350 of them in the company’s Groton, Conn., facility.