NEWPORT, R.I. (AP) -- Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Wednesday he is counting on defense companies in Rhode Island to help ensure the nation's security.
Hagel said he relies on the state as he briefly toured the exhibit area at the inaugural Defense Innovation Days conference, hosted by the Southeastern New England Defense Industry Alliance in Newport. He spoke with executives at Electric Boat and the Raytheon Co. and praised them for their defense work.
Electric Boat President Jeffrey Geiger talked with Hagel about delivering a new Virginia-class submarine to the Navy last week, the growing workforce in Rhode Island and developments on a new class of ballistic-missile submarines. Hagel called the attack submarines "a magnificent platform," and he said he was impressed with an active sonar system being tested for anti-submarine warfare in the deep ocean.
Geiger said after: "To hear from the secretary of defense that he recognizes and appreciates the work we do helps make it all worthwhile."
Raytheon CEO Thomas Kennedy gave Hagel an update on programs for air and missile defense radar and guided-missile destroyers.
Electric Boat employs about 3,000 people in Rhode Island while Raytheon employs 1,000.
The event brought policymakers and industry representatives together to discuss new trends within the defense industry and technologies being developed and deployed to military forces. Gov. Lincoln Chafee, U.S. Sen. Jack Reed and other members of the state's congressional delegation attended.
Hagel also hosted a town hall meeting on the Department of Defense's role in national security at the U.S. Naval War College.