Panetta Visits ‘Submarine Capital of the World’

GROTON, Conn., Nov. 17, 2011 — Defense Sec­re­tary Leon E. Panet­ta vis­it­ed U.S. Navy sailors and indus­tri­al base work­ers today while get­ting a first­hand look at con­struc­tion of the Vir­ginia-class attack sub­ma­rine, the USS Mis­sis­sip­pi.

“I can’t tell you what an hon­or it is for me to have a chance to come up here to Gro­ton and rec­og­nize the fact that this is the sub­ma­rine cap­i­tal of the world,” the sec­re­tary said.

Speak­ing to a group of work­ers from Gen­er­al Dynam­ics Elec­tric Boat, sailors and a state del­e­ga­tion, the sec­re­tary praised the local indus­tri­al base’s ship­build­ing exper­tise.

“It’s the home of our sub­ma­rine force, it’s the orig­i­nal home of the Nau­tilus and it is, from my point of view, one of the very impor­tant ele­ments of our nation­al defense that you guys are doing,” Panet­ta said.

“The work that you’re doing is absolute­ly essen­tial to our abil­i­ty to keep our coun­try safe,” he not­ed.

Panet­ta thanked the group for their con­tri­bu­tion. “I thank you for your ser­vice, for your work, for your ded­i­ca­tion, for your com­mit­ment,” he said. “This kind of work sim­ply could not hap­pen with­out your skills and your ded­i­ca­tion.”

Rep­re­sent­ing the local defense indus­tri­al base, one of its lead­ers laud­ed Panetta’s com­mit­ment dur­ing times of fis­cal aus­ter­i­ty.

“As the nation’s defense bud­get comes under increas­ing scruti­ny, we’re for­tu­nate to have such a capa­ble and expe­ri­enced sec­re­tary of defense,” said John P. Casey, pres­i­dent of Gen­er­al Dynam­ics Elec­tric Boat.

“Sec­re­tary Panet­ta has toured [USS] Mis­sis­sip­pi behind me with mem­bers of our EB team and the ship’s crew,” Casey said. “We’re work­ing togeth­er to deliv­er this ship about one year ahead of sched­ule and about $50 mil­lion dol­lars under its tar­get cost.”

Panet­ta cit­ed the state delegation’s efforts to ensure the future of the defense indus­tri­al base in Gro­ton.

“The real­i­ty is that your del­e­ga­tion has put up a good fight,” he said. “You’re talk­ing to some­body that went through the [Base Realign­ment and Clo­sure] process.”

The sec­re­tary not­ed the chal­lenges of BRAC on local com­mu­ni­ties and econ­o­my. He recalled serv­ing as a con­gress­man in Cal­i­for­nia when Fort Ord, Calif., closed due to BRAC. The instal­la­tion rep­re­sent­ed about 25 per­cent of his district’s econ­o­my.

“I went through the hell of hav­ing to fig­ure out what do I do to try to pro­tect the econ­o­my of my local com­mu­ni­ty,” Panet­ta said. “For­tu­nate­ly, we were able to do it. We locat­ed a cam­pus there and it’s doing fine. But I wouldn’t wish going through BRAC on any­body.”

Panet­ta com­mend­ed the del­e­ga­tion for fight­ing to pre­serve “some­thing that is very impor­tant to our nation­al defense.”

“Espe­cial­ly look­ing at it from my point of view as sec­re­tary of defense, this is absolute­ly essen­tial,” he said. “So I want to thank the del­e­ga­tion for their sup­port and for their will­ing­ness to go to bat when it’s impor­tant to try to pro­tect a facil­i­ty like this,” he added.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)