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Columbia-Class Submarines Could Double Electric Boat Workforce Within Five Years, General Dynamics CEO Predicts

  • On recent conference call, General Dynamics CEO Phebe Novakovic says Electric Boat’s workforce could double in size in the near future due to Columbia-class submarine development
  • Democratic sweep on Election Day could spur more critical look at defense spending, but submarines are unlikely to be on the chopping block
  • Virginia-class submarine building could also ramp up under Defense Secretary proposal

The workforce at Electric Boat in southeastern Connecticut could double in size over the next five or six years due to work on the Columbia-class submarine, predicted Phebe Novakovic, CEO of EB parent company General Dynamics, said on a recent conference call.

Such growth would be faster than previously expected. Currently there are about 9,000 people employed at EB’s shipyard at Groton and another 3,000 at its engineering center in New London.

A dozen Columbia-class ballistic submarines will replace 14 aging Ohio-class submarines by 2028. EB began construction on the first two Columbia-class submarines this month after receiving a $10.3 billion contract to partner with Newport News Shipbuilding on their development. Several improvements are also planned for the Groton shipyard to support this work, including the delivery of a new dry dock in 2024.

Senator Richard Blumenthal has said Democrats may take a more critical look at defense spending if they win control of Congress in next week’s election, though he doesn’t think submarine construction will be affected by any cuts. Representative Joe. Courtney, whose district includes Groton and New London, has long been a champion for Electric Boat and supported the production of at least two submarines a year.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper has called for the expansion of the U.S. Navy to 500 ships by 2045 to maintain naval superiority over China, saying submarines will be a crucial part of this fleet. Esper has recommended increasing the pace of Virginia-class submarine construction to three boats a year, but Novakovic says there are currently no preparations for such a ramp-up in production since the Pentagon has not yet released a plan to accommodate such an effort at public and private shipyards.

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