Casey: Outlook For Electric Boat Is 'As Strong As I Can Remember'
Sub builder looking to growth in business, jobs
By Anthony Cronin
New London Day
January 12, 2011
Groton - The Electric Boat shipyard is forecasting strong business and employment growth, with several hundred to be hired this year to meet an increasing workload at the submarine maker's facilities in Groton and Quonset Point, R.I.
John Casey, president of the nuclear-submarine maker headquartered in Groton, told the region's legislative delegation Tuesday that continuing construction of this nation's fast-attack sub program, as well as a ramping up of work for the replacement of the aging Ohio-class ballistic missile subs, are leading to a bullish forecast for the defense contractor, owned by the Falls Church, Va.-based General Dynamics.
"This is as strong an outlook as I can remember," said Casey during the company's annual forecast breakfast for local legislators, business leaders and other dignitaries at the Mystic Marriott Hotel & Spa. "It's a fantastic time to be in the submarine business."
EB employs about 10,000 and is one the largest employers and manufacturers in Connecticut and Rhode Island. Casey said he expects a stable employment picture moving forward, although he warned of a softening during the second half of this year for maintenance and repair work along the Groton waterfront.
EB expects to hire between 300 and 400 more engineers for its growing New London design-and-engineering campus, housed in the former Pfizer Inc. research-and-development headquarters. Casey said the company anticipates a work force of up to 3,500 at the Pequot Avenue facility by next year.
The defense executive said he expects the first of the replacement Ohio-class submarines will be authorized in 2019 and a second in 2022. "There's still a lot of design and manufacturing work" to be done for that program, and many of those new engineers being hired by EB will work on the replacement sub program.
Casey described the shipyard's labor relations with its various unions as "quite solid," with new multiyear contracts signed with its major unions. "The current workload this year looks stable," he said. "We're as stable as I ever could have predicted."
Casey also said the Pentagon's proposed fiscal year 2012 budget includes about $4.7 billion in ship construction funds and $150 million in research-and-development spending, along with roughly $1 billion in research and development for the Ohio-class replacement program.
U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, who attended the meeting, said EB's continuing tight reins on its overall expenses has brought Pentagon and congressional support for the company's attack-class and ballistic-missile submarine programs. The company this past summer delivered the USS Missouri Virginia-class submarine nine months ahead of schedule and about $100 million below its initial targeted cost.
Despite Defense Secretary Robert Gates' proposed $178 billion in military-related cutbacks, EB will be spared, said Courtney. "For Electric Boat in that environment to move forward is just an amazing accomplishment," he said.
The congressman said there is continuing congressional support for this nation's submarine building because the fleet currently stands at 52 - a far cry from a fleet of 100 submarines during the 1980s. He said that even with the increase in submarine building to two boats a year - built through a teaming arrangement with EB and Northrop Grumman's Newport News shipbuilding facilities in Virginia - the fleet will fall to "the low 40s" by the end of this decade because of the decommissioning of older subs.