Electric Boat president boasts of rising tide for submarines
By STEPHEN SINGER | The Hartford Courant | Published: January 23, 2018
GROTON, Conn. (Tribune News Service) — The president of Electric Boat delivered an upbeat outlook for the submarine manufacturer on Monday, detailing to a business audience increased hiring, a rising number of subs being built and new buildings planned for the Groton site to handle the expanding workload.
The only wrinkle are chronic budget stalemates in Washington.
EB President Jeffrey Geiger, presenting the annual outlook, avoided focusing on the fight in Congress that forced a federal government shutdown Saturday. Budget policy is a “good deal less clear at the moment,” he said.
An impasse between President Donald Trump and Democrats and Republicans in Congress over immigration policy, the role of temporary spending bills and other issues led to the shutdown, threatening a range of government services and spending priorities.
The shutdown is on track to ending after the Senate voted 81-18 Monday approving another stopgap measure that will fund the federal government through Feb. 8.
Geiger, speaking to about 100 business representatives and state and local officials at a gathering in Groton, detailed how Electric Boat is benefiting from a shift in U.S. military strategy that’s turning its attention to sea power to face down threats from China, Iran and Russia.
“We are very much in a growth environment,” he said.
The labor force at Electric Boat, which designs and manufactures submarines in Groton and Quonset Point, R.I., surpassed the 16,000 mark last year, the first time it’s reached that number in nearly 25 years.
“And it’s only going to go up,” Geiger said.
About 11,600 of the workers are in Groton, 4,100 are in Rhode Island and 500 work at other sites.
Employment is expected to grow to nearly 19,000 by the mid-2020s, he said. As many as 2,200 jobs are to be filled this year, with 1,000 in Rhode Island and 1,200 at Groton-New London.
Demonstrating how attractive well-paid manufacturing and engineering jobs are, EB received about 81,000 applications last year for 3,000 job openings, Geiger said.
Driving employment growth are plans for as many as 55 submarines to be built in the next 20 years. “Think about the significance of that activity going forward,” Geiger said.
Connecticut is benefiting from an increasingly robust manufacturing sector, specifically contractors that make components equipping military and commercial jets, helicopters and submarines. Manufacturers posted 160,300 jobs in the state, up 4,100, or 2.5 percent, last year, the first increase in Connecticut since 2010, the state Department of Labor reported Monday.
Lawmakers and Trump last month approved the outlines of nearly $8 billion in spending for Virginia and Columbia class submarines. But Republicans and Democrats failed to resolve differences over the use of temporary spending measures and immigration policy before a midnight deadline, forcing the government to shut down without a budget in place.
Temporary spending bills, known as continuing resolutions, have been used frequently when Congress is unable to find the votes to approve one-year spending plans.
Geiger told reporters after his presentation that most of Electric Boat’s business in multiyear contracts are unaffected while stopgap budgets are in place.
“Where it does impact us is where those programs are ramping up in volume or a new program is starting,” he said. “And we have a few of those kind of things that fall into that category that are being impeded from getting going at this point.”
Critics of continuing resolutions, or CR as it’s called in Washington, say it fails to provide adequate spending guidance for congressional priorities.
In an interview last week, Rep. Joe Courtney, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, said continuing resolutions “with no endgame in terms of where we’re going” are frustrating.
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said Friday that continuing resolutions are “very destructive to long-term planning in our national defense.”
Members of Connecticut’s congressional delegation who usually attend the Electric Boat briefings remained in Washington as the budget battle continued.
Federal funding related to Connecticut-made military products includes more than $10 billion for 90 joint strike fighters for the Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy.
In addition, more than $2 billion is earmarked for Black Hawks and the CH-53K helicopter.
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