The United States Navy announced in June that it plans to award contracting options for the first of two Columbia-class SSBN submarines to General Dynamics Electric Boat, which employs Boilermakers from Local 614 (New London, Connecticut).
“A lot of our members at 614 are really young—between 18-35 years old—so this means they’re going to have a job for the rest of their career if they choose to stay with it,” said L-614 business manager Frank Ward. “Some of this initiative has been in the making for a long time, and they’re encouraged.”
According to a press release issued by U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, (Connecticut, 2nd District) who has championed the initiative, the new award modifies an existing Integrated Product and Process Development contract to provide contracting options for the first two Columbia-class SSBNs, slated to begin in fiscal year 2021 and 2024. The $10.3 billion contract modification would include $869 million to be awarded immediately for continued design completion, engineering work and submarine industrial base expansion efforts, as well as $9.5 billion for a contract option for the first two Columbia-class submarines. While this is contingent on congressional approval of required incremental funding authority and appropriations for the program for FY21, it is anticipated to be approved.
“The replacement of our sea-based strategic deterrent comes only once every other generation, and this work is already fueling unprecedented growth in the workforce in Groton [Connecticut] and transformation of the shipyard,” said Courtney. “This award is the culmination of nearly a decade’s worth of preparation for this milestone moment for our region and our nation.”
Ward said members of L-614 regularly participate in the Boilermakers Legislative Education Action Program in Washington, D.C. and meet with their state representatives like Courtney to keep Boilermakers’ issues and positions front and center. He said they also stay in touch with Courtney at home in Connecticut.
“We all have his numbers, so he’s just a phone call away,” Ward says. “They call him ‘Two-sub Joe.’”
Ward said that after a period of stagnant employment, L-614 has seen a jump from 300 members to 660, due to the increased work at General Dynamics Electric Boat. He noted construction of a large building is taking place at the shipyard as a result of the U.S. Navy award—a building big enough to hold two submarines.
“For the next 25 years, we’re going to have the new Columbia class coming on, replacing the Ohio class (submarines). It’s looking really good, and in the future, we’re going to be really gaining in employment,” he said.