The $619-billion National Defense Authorization Act, approved by the U.S. House and expected to pass in the Senate this week, contains funds for submarine construction and a new National Guard headquarters in East Greenwich.
By Katherine Gregg
Journal Political Writer
PROVIDENCE – With $5 billion included for the construction of two Virginia-class attack submarines, another $1.9 billion for ballistic-missile submarines and $20 million for construction of a new National Guard headquarters in East Greenwich, the Rhode Island defense industry stands to benefit big-time from a spending bill headed for final votes in Washington, D.C., this week.
The $619-billion National Defense Authorization Act was approved by the U.S. House of Representatives on Friday by a vote of 375 to 34. It will be taken up by the full U.S. Senate this week and is expected to pass with bipartisan support.
On the national level, the 2017 defense-spending bill “supports ongoing operations overseas and gives troops a 2.1-percent pay raise, the biggest increase since 2010,” according to an aide to U.S. Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island, who, as the top Democrat (or “ranking member”) of the Senate Armed Services Committee, helped write and negotiate the package.
It also earmarks millions for two submarine programs at General Dynamics Electric Boat shipyards in North Kingstown and in Groton, Connecticut.
In a telephone interview on Saturday about the stakes, Reed said: “It is important for Rhode Island in multiple ways.
“First, it fully funds the two-ship-a-year construction of the Virginia-class submarine, which is literally thousands of jobs at Quonset Point and at Groton…. Second, it continues to fund the development of the next ballistic submarine, the Ohio class replacement, which also is on track to bring thousands of additional jobs to Quonset Point.”
Attack submarines are designed to hunt and sink surface ships and other submarines, as well as carry out surveillance and special-operations missions. Ballistic-missile submarines are designed to hide deep in the sea, each with more than a dozen nuclear missiles to deter a nuclear strike by enemies who wouldn’t be able to prevent a devastating counterstrike from the submarines.
“These two programs alone are absolutely critical … to national security and jobs in Rhode Island,” Reed said.
“We also have increased the authorization for applied research at the Naval Undersea Warfare Center down in Newport,” he said. “We want to maintain our technological advantage on any adversary, particularly under these new domains, like cyber and under-sea … There’s a lot of emphasis on remote or autonomous vehicles, and that research can be done now with more resources.”
Added U.S. Rep. James Langevin, D-R.I., after the bill cleared the House: “If there is one issue on which bipartisanship prevails, it is national security, and I am proud to be a part of this bipartisan effort to support our military, care for our veterans, invest in innovation and protect American interests at home and abroad.”
Earlier Saturday, Reed joined Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus and others, in Groton for the christening of the new PCU Colorado Virginia-class submarine, the fifth and newest addition to the Block III Virginia-class submarines. The construction, which began in March 2012, was completed by General Dynamics Electric Boat and Huntington Ingalls Industries-Newport News Shipbuilding.
Reed’s office provide this breakdown of some of the direct impacts on Rhode Island’s defense industry, which, according to the Southeastern New England Defense Industry Alliance (SENEDIA), employs about 33,000 Rhode Islanders:
$20 million for the construction of a new headquarters facility for the Rhode Island Army and Air National Guard in East Greenwich.
The $20 million would cover two-thirds of the cost of the state-federal construction project, which will build the new 80,000-square-foot Readiness Center to support training, administrative and logistical requirements for the Rhode Island Army and Air National Guard. According to Gov. Gina Raimondo’s budget, a construction contract should be awarded in January.
The stated reason for the project: the current Command Readiness Center lacks adequate administrative space, classrooms, locked storage space, and an assembly hall for unit formations – all of which hinder the Command’s ability to meet readiness, retention and training objectives.
Shipbuilding and naval innovation
$5 billion for the Virginia-class submarine program, including an additional $85 million above the president’s budget request in advance procurement. The bill supports the 10-boat, multi-year contract that the Navy and Electric Boat signed in April 2014.
$1.9 billion to fully support the Ohio-class replacement program.
$271.7 million for the DDG-1000 Zumwalt destroyer program. The ships are built in Maine, but a lot of the “smart technology” that goes into them is worked on in Rhode Island.
$126.3 million to accelerate undersea warfare applied research.
$10 million for the procurement of additional sensor systems that detect stealth submarines, a priority for the Navy.