Nuclear Security & Deterrence Monitor Vol. 28 No. 26
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Nuclear Security & Deterrence Monitor
Article 5 of 8
June 28, 2024

Kaine says immigration reform needed for AUKUS shipbuilding workforce

By ExchangeMonitor

Immigration reform is needed to expand the defense and shipbuilding industrial bases and workforces build submarines faster, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services seapower committee said Friday.

“The U.S. birth rate is not growing, and even if it started growing tomorrow, we wouldn’t see it for 20 years,” Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) said during a Center for a New American Security event. “And so immigration reform is going to have to be part of it.”

Kaine’s push for immigration reform follows Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro, who consistently pushes for increases to legal immigration to improve the blue collar workforce in the submarine industrial base.

Kaine said the shipbuilding workforce is his biggest concern for the trilateral Australia-UK-U.S. AUKUS agreement to help Australia build nuclear-powered submarines by the 2040s. The plan also includes U.S. sales of three to five Virginia-class submarines in the 2030s.

However, the submarine makers Huntington Ingalls Industries and General Dynamics’ Electric Boat are far below the Navy’s ideal rate of building and delivering two boats per year. Kaine said the companies are currently at a rate of about 1.4 submarines per year.

“The biggest obstacle in Pillar 1 right now to meeting our pace of production is workforce issues,” Kaine, chairman of the Senate Armed Services seapower subcommittee, said. Australians “grapple with workforce issues, too, and I think this is going to be the choke point, if we don’t recognize it, address it, and be innovative in solving it.”

AUKUS Pillar 1 refers to delivering submarines; pillar 2 includes sharing other technologies.

Kaine said Australia’s willingness to invest $3 billion in the U.S. submarine industrial base was “pretty remarkable,” but the investment will only matter if the U.S. is “creative on the workforce,” including immigration reform.

Kaine did say what he would like to see in an immigration reform bill.


A version of this story was first published by Exchange Monitor affiliate Defense Daily.

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