KITTERY, MAINE — Vice President Joe Biden spoke emphatically about revitalizing the middle class, promoting American job growth and safeguarding America’s dominant military role in the world Wednesday at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, where he said work to repair and modernize nuclear submarines is “an absolutely vital arm of our nuclear triad.”
“You’re the reason America is the most dominant force in the world,” Biden told hundreds of workers packed into the shipyard’s Building 92. “You keep America safe. It’s as simple as that.”
A shipyard electrical engineer in the crowd said welding and component fitting work usually take place in the massive shop building, which was overflowing with spectators, media and security personnel during Biden’s lengthy remarks.
The vice president touted the shipyard’s role as a “centerpiece of our country’s defense for more than 200 years,” and the current support it provides to the Navy’s “72-strong submarine force.”
“Simple fact - you are simply the best in the world. In the world,” Biden told the workers.
At one point early in his remarks, Biden grinned while disparaging the notion that the federal government would even consider closing or reducing staff at the shipyard in Kittery, Maine.
He said apprenticeship and training programs at the facility are a model for private enterprises and for America’s path to revitalizing the middle class. He said that while the national GDP has shown significant growth since 2001, middle class wages rose only 14 cents in that time.
“That’s no way to grow America, man,” Biden said. “That’s no way to restore the middle class.”
Biden began his remarks by condemning the actions of the Islamic militants who released a video showing the beheading of American journalist Steven Sotloff.
“Because of the barbaric acts of ISIL, (Sotloff) was taken from us,” Biden said. “He put his life on the line as a journalist to tell the story of the Syrian people.”
Biden added that America will not be intimidated by the beheading, which follows the similar killing of New Hampshire native James Foley, a journalist for GlobalPost.
“They somehow think it’s going to lessen U.S. resolve,” Biden said. “If they think the American people are going to be intimidated, they don’t know us very well.”
He said America “came back from 9/11” and “came back Boston Strong,” and vowed to bring Foley and Sotloff’s killers to justice.
“We will follow them to the gates of hell until they are brought to justice,” Biden said, his voice rising and echoing in the massive naval facility. “Because hell is where they will reside. “
U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., U.S. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, D-N.H., and U.S. Reps. Michael Michaud and Chellie Pingree, both Democrats from Maine, were on hand Wednesday and spoke before Biden, praising the shipyard’s role in the regional economy and in national security.
Portsmouth Naval Shipyard employs about 4,700 civilian workers.