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Pentagon Spending Bill Benefits Connecticut

July 27th, 2017

Pentagon Spending Bill Benefits Connecticut

Stephen Singer | Contact Reporter, http://www.courant.com/

July 27th, 2017

Military contractors in Connecticut stand to gain billions of dollars in a Pentagon budget moving through Congress, but lawmakers will have to blow past spending limits to make the money available.

Legislation earmarking $696 billion in 2018 military spending won bipartisan backing in the House of Representatives last week and awaits action in the Senate.

For Connecticut manufacturers, the budget includes $13.2 billion to purchase 87 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, equipped with engines made by United Technologies Corp.’s Pratt & Whitney; $6.2 billion for two Virginia-class submarines and $1.9 billion for development of the Columbia-class submarine at General Dynamics Corp. subsidiary Electric Boat; and $1.2 billion for 53 Black Hawk helicopters and $567.6 million for four heavy-lift helicopters made by Sikorsky, a unit of Lockheed Martin Corp.

Funding also includes $38.7 million for procurement and $451.9 million for development of the presidential helicopter and $7 million for construction at the Bradley Air National Guard base.

“Connecticut is much more central to U.S. military preparedness than most Americans realize,” said Loren Thompson, chief operating officer of the Lexington Institute, an Arlington, Va., think tank. “It’s a small state, but it really, really operates well above its weight class.”

The legislation exceeds budget caps adopted in 2011, leaving a “question mark” about how Congress can achieve the spending set in the bill, he said.

Sen. Chris Murphy, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said spending called for in the measure may not be feasible.

“It’s great for Connecticut, but not reflective of reality,” said Murphy, D-Conn. “Ultimately, there’s going to have to be hard choices made. I’d say there’s a disconnect between this authorization bill and ultimately, the amount of money that will be made available for defense appropriations.”

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he will oppose reductions in domestic spending to make room for the Pentagon budget. He said education, railway transportation, road construction and other domestic priorities must be funded.

If military spending “comes at the expense of domestic and civilian programs there will be understandable pushback,” Blumenthal said.

Members of Connecticut’s delegation to Congress, for example, have criticized proposals in the Trump administration and Congress to significantly cut workforce training.

“There’s some fantasy in the idea that they can make three subs a year while gutting the workforce,” Murphy said.

Rep. Joe Courtney, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, said the measure that passed the House 344-81 won the most bipartisan support in nearly a decade. The spending caps will ultimately be set aside to accommodate funding, he said.

“Under no scenario will caps be applied. The question is how high the caps will be lifted,” Courtney said.

At the same time, he said, “there’s going to be some give on domestic spending” and the Senate will face a “day of reckoning” to balance domestic and military spending. Complicating those efforts is a 60-vote threshold required for Senate approval of legislation.

And Connecticut’s all-Democratic congressional delegation, while holding seats on key committees, will have influence but not much real power in the Republican-run House and Senate.

“Republicans will determine in both chambers what goes in the bill,” Rep. John Larson said.

Military spending reflects the U.S. response to numerous global dangers: North Korea’s testing of nuclear missiles, Russia’s threats to Ukraine and Iran’s influence in the Middle East.

Prime contract spending for the defense industry was $14.23 billion in 2016, according to the state Office of Military Affairs. Of that, Connecticut’s three largest defense contractors — Electric Boat, Pratt & Whitney and Sikorsky — accounted for about $13.3 billion, the state said.

But hundreds of smaller companies that make everything from laundry equipment on submarines to jet engine components supply the big three manufacturers.

Scott DeFelice, chief executive officer of Oxford Performance Materials, said the company is benefiting from the growth in defense spending. The South Windsor aerospace manufacturer is a supplier for other manufacturing firms.

The company is “really feeling an immediate impact” of rising defense spending, particularly from a recent $45 billion supplemental defense budget, he said. Work has focused on military satellites, classified work and retrofitting and updating military aircraft, DeFelice said.

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Posted in the category Industrial.

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