The Day – Defense production expansion could help the region’s submarine industry


President Joe Biden’s decision last week to expand defense production capacity could help the region’s submarine construction industry, which has been hit hard by supply chain issues and labor.

The Navy and the shipbuilding industry reported as late as this month that they were facing supply chain issues, shortages and delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as labor, production, supply and space issues. Electric Boat chairman Kevin Graney has said in public statements several times during the pandemic that the company is understaffed due to the coronavirus, while the hiring of new employees is also slowing the construction process. . Suppliers also have their own labor issues, according to Electric Boat and the White House.

“I find that action to expand the domestic production capacity of these supply chains is necessary to avoid a shortage of industrial resources or critical technological elements that would seriously compromise the national defense capability,” Biden said in a note released by the White House on December 21. “Ensuring a robust, resilient and competitive national defense industrial base that has the capability, capability and manpower to respond to the Virginia-class submarine combat mission is essential to our national security. . “

According to the Defense Production Act, or DPA, which the White House invoked to increase the production of Virginia-class submarines, presidents in general can, in order to “create, maintain, protect, expand or restore the capabilities of the base. industrial resources essential for national defense ”, purchase“ an industrial resource or a critical technological element for use or resale by the government ”, encourage“ the extraction of critical and strategic materials ”and“ the development of production capacities ” , among other actions.

Biden has used the DPA for other issues related to the pandemic, including vaccine production and test distribution. He classifies this as a pandemic-related problem, as it has affected the supply chain and slowed production of submarines, which are “essential to national defense.”

The Virginia-class submarines are being built at the rate of two per year, although Congress plans to increase that number to “something more than two ships per year,” according to the Congress Research Service.

“The increased production of Virginia-class attack submarines will ensure that the United States Navy can fulfill its missions of maintaining open sea lanes for global communication and commerce, strengthening diplomatic partnerships and developing a strong submarine warfare capability, “the Defense Department said in a statement. Release. “Through the DPA, the US Navy can make key investments with manufacturers and suppliers executing the submarine shipbuilding plan.”

The Day reported in June that problems with parts of the Navy’s Virginia-class submarines failing faster than expected could result in increased work for private shipyards such as Electric Boat.

“It’s not every day that the President of the United States refers to the importance of the production capacity of a particular program as the Virginia Class sub-program,” US Representative Joe Courtney, D- 2nd district. “It is clear that this is an integral part of a strategic review that has been going on for a year by the new administration which recognizes that our submarine mission is essential to our national security.”

Courtney noted that the new $ 770 billion defense bill, signed by Biden last week, contains money intended to help EB address workforce, supply chain issues. and production capacity.

“Biden’s order is consistent with the defense bill, which has just been passed by both houses,” Courtney said. “Biden is kind of tapping his foot about how important and essential this whole production system is and not losing ground. “

Courtney said that approximately 6,000 vendors feed the Virginia Class program, noting that this number needs to increase so that “you don’t have part for a submarine where there is only one vendor because that it is quite fragile. If that business goes bankrupt or just stops producing, you’re kind of stuck. “

He also highlighted the benefits of the Asia-Pacific Security Pact between the UK, US and Australia.

“The pact opened another door in terms of additional work at Groton as Australia has a population of less than 30 million and has no experience in terms of nuclear propulsion technology,” he said. “The UK and US have submarine building programs, and there is no doubt that they will be part of Australian production, which is still a long way off – an 18-month analysis is underway. right now.”

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