First Lady Michelle Obama participated in a keel laying ceremony of a new submarine this afternoon at the Electric Boat's Quonset Point Facility in North Kingstown.
Less than a month ago, the U.S. Navy awarded $17.6 billion, its largest contract, to Electric Boat and its construction partner Newport News Shipbuilding, to build 10 new attack submarines for the fleet the Virginia class. The First Lady is the sponsor of the fleet's 13th submarine, the Illinois, named after the First Family's home state.
The First Lady said the war in Iraq may be over, and the war in Afghanistan is set to end soon, "but you all know that the work of keeping our country safe and secure will never be over," she said.
"And our Navy is a daily testament to that truth. No matter what's going on in the world, whether we are at war or at peace, whether it's day or night, the navy is always out there, watching out for our nation," she said.
After the First Lady vowed to the the best sponsor she could, Mrs. Obama wrote her initials in chalk on a steel plate. Then a long-time employee of Electric Boat, Michael Macomber, welded her initials. The steel plate will be installed on the submarine at a later date, "where it will be on constant display as a symbol of Mrs. Obama's connection to the submarine Illinois and its crew," said Electric Boat CEO Jeff Geiger.
"To our sponsor, we are honored by your presence," said Matt Mulherin, president of Newport News Shipbuilding. "As you sign your initials to the steel today, you also strengthen the submarine with your spirit. And with spirit like yours, this submarine is destined to accomplish extraordinary things as she represents your home state and the United States for many years to come."
The name USS Illinois has a proud history going back to the late 19th century, said Rep. Jim Langevin. The USS Illinois, also laid down by Newport News Shipbuilding, served as part of the Great White Fleet and served in the Atlantic in World War I. "I know the people of Illinois will be justifiably proud that, once again, a USS Illinois will fly the American flag on the high seas," said Langevin.
Electric Boat and Newport News Shipbuilding will build two submarines a year, said Sen. Jack Reed. "I look forward to working with all of our partners to ensure that we can continue with this schedule through difficult, difficult budget times," said Reed, chairman of the Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower.
This post has been updated.