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December 6, 2005

Governor fights EB job cuts

General Dynamics Electric Boat says it is to eliminate between 1,900 and 2,400 jobs by the end of next year.

Press and wire service reports quote company spokesman Bob Hamilton as saying that EB has received a letter from the Navy saying that future submarine repair work will be directed to Navy yards. This follows the failure of the BRAC Commission's failure to go along with Navy recommendations on closures of some of those yards.

Today's announcement by Electric Boat could just be the first shot in a battle to reverse the Navy's new submarine repair plans.

Commenting on the planned job eliminations, Connecticut Governor Jodi Rell said she could "not fathom the decision-making in Washington, DC."

She said she had already written to U.S. Navy Secretary Gordon England "explaining why it does not make sense to exclude Electric Boat from competing for contracts."

The Governor said she is sending Economic and Community Development Commissioner James Abromaitis, Labor Commissioner Shaun Cashman, Mary Ann Hanley of the Office of Workforce Competitiveness, and Doug Fisher, chairman of my new Governor's Commission on the Diversification of Southeastern Connecticut's Economy, to EB to determine strategies for short- and longer-term job protection and job growth.

"I am disappointed. I am angry. And I am determined to do whatever we need to do to protect these jobs," said the Governor.

In her letter to the Secretary of the Navy, Governor Rell writes:

Dear Secretary England:

I have learned today that Electric Boat (EB) plans to eliminate some 2,400 jobs by the end of next year, due largely to a Navy decision to direct future submarine repair work to shipyards rather than EB's own facility in Groton.

First and foremost, the unilateral decision to award this work to the four NAVSEA shipyards in Maine, Virginia, Washington and Hawaii must be reconsidered. The work should be awarded on the basis of lowest cost and most responsible bidder just as any government contract should be awarded rather than giving preferential treatment to particular facilities.

I am also deeply frustrated and disturbed that this decision runs counter in every respect to the one of the major reasons cited by the Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) for keeping SUBASE New London open: the unique and irreplaceable synergy that exists between the base and EB, just a few miles up the Thames River.

It should go without saying that Electric Boat is--and always has been--the nation's premier builder of submarines. As such EB has played a key role in servicing and upgrading the complex vessels that protect our national interests. While those improvements were being made, the crews have trained at SUBASE New London, obtaining the latest knowledge and skills at the world's foremost submarine base.

Having our nation's submarines refit at public shipyards such as the facility in Kittery, Maine--a driving distance from Groton of some 165 miles, and further still by sea--unnecessarily separates these two functions.

It is also worth noting that EB President John Casey has indicated many times, including during his testimony during the BRAC hearings in July, that hosting repair work at EB makes a major impact on submarine construction overhead. At a time when the Navy is seeking to lower construction costs for submarines, removing repair work from EB will be entirely counterproductive.

I have touched on only a few of the effects that moving submarine refit out of EB's shipyard would have. Others apart from the obvious and devastating impact to the regional economy include the loss of skilled workers who might well be needed at some future date, and a disconnect between ongoing construction of new vessels and refit of existing boats.

In short, I believe strongly that the decision is rife with pitfalls. Most importantly, however, it does not allow the hard-working men and women of Electric Boat an opportunity to make their best case for the right to perform this work, and that is distinctly unfair.

I look forward to an early opportunity to discuss this issue with you further. In the meantime, please do not hesitate to contact my office if you have any questions.


M. Jodi Rell