Braithwaite, who was appointed by President Donald Trump earlier this year, visited General Dynamics Electric Boat's facilities at Quonset Point in North Kingstown, Rhode Island, as well as in nearby Groton, Connecticut.
U.S. Sen. Jack Reed, a Rhode Island Democrat, said the tour, which was closed to the media, was an opportunity for the Navy’s civilian leader to get a firsthand look at the sophisticated facilities that will be making the Navy’s next generation of submarines.
Last year, the Navy signed a more than $22 billion contract to build up to 10 Virginia-class submarines at Groton and Quonset Point, according to Reed’s office.
The Navy and General Dynamics also reached agreement this summer on a $10 billion contract for the first two Columbia-class nuclear ballistic submarines, which will be built in Connecticut, Rhode Island and Virginia, the office said.
Reed, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said preparations are already underway at Quonset for the official start of work on the new Columbia-class submarines in October.
The subs will replace the Navy's aging fleet of Ohio-class nuclear ballistic submarines. The upgrade is projected to cost about $110 billion, according to Reed's office.
The first of the new Columbia-class subs is expected to be in the water by 2027, and Rhode Island hopes to produce a new one each year for decades to come, Reed said.
Electric Boat, one of the state’s biggest employers, has spent roughly $800 million to upgrade and expand its Quonset Point facility, which is on the site of a former naval base. The location also produces about two Virginia-class subs a year, according to Reed.