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ODU professor: Submarine program cut would create 'uncertainty' for local firms

But Bob McNab predicts Congress will restore funds to build two Virginia-class subs in 2021.

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — It's not exactly news that Hampton Roads' largest private employer and its more than 24,000 workers wanted to hear.

Newport News Shipbuilding -- in partnership with General Dynamics Electric Boat in Groton, Connecticut -- was supposed to build two Virginia-class submarines in 2021, according to last year's 30-year shipbuilding plan.

But now, if the Trump Administration's proposed $4.1 billion cut to shipbuilding next year is enacted, it will only be one sub that gets constructed.

RELATED: Trump's $4.8 trillion budget proposal revisits rejected cuts

"So if you're the small supplier and that's what you are looking forward to is two being built, and now you're being told one, it creates uncertainty," said Old Dominion University Economics Professor Bob McNab, who is Director, Dragas Center for Economic Analysis and Policy.  

McNab thinks it is unlikely, though, that Congress will go along with the sub cut.

"Congress tends to vote for their districts," he said. "They have an incentive to say, 'Look, I brought jobs home.' You don't get re-elected touting how many jobs you lost in your district. Congress is going to look at this plan and say, 'It doesn't make sense to cut the buy of Virginia-class submarines by 50 percent because that is going to result in a dramatic increase in cost.'"

U.S. Senator Tim Kaine blasted the idea, saying: "For years, robust funding for these submarines has strengthened our national security and our shipbuilding industry in Hampton Roads. As a member of the Armed Services Committee, I'm going to push hard to reject this budget cut and ensure full funding for two Virginia-class submarines."

Huntington Ingalls Industries, the parent company of Newport News Shipbuilding, also weighed in. In a statement to 13News Now, the company said, "The budget process is a long and complex one so it would be premature to provide specific comments at this time. We will continue to work closely with the Navy and the Congress as the process moves forward."

RELATED: New submarines to take names of Pearl Harbor battleships

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