Courtney wants state companies to benefit from work at sub base
By Jennifer Grogan
January 29, 2010
Bill would urge the Navy to hire Connecticut firms
U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, is considering drafting a bill that would encourage the Navy to use Connecticut companies in projects the state is currently paying nearly $8 million for at the Naval Submarine Base in Groton.
In September, Gov. M. Jodi Rell presented Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus with $7.65 million for two projects in Groton. Connecticut thus became the first state to give the Navy money to fully fund construction projects at a military base.
Rell wrote to Mabus last month to ask that "competitive and qualified" Connecticut firms get "special consideration" when the contracts to upgrade the facility for Navy divers and to replace the aging boilers at the power plant are awarded.
Mabus has not yet responded.
Federal acquisition rules clearly state that there must be "full and open competition in soliciting offers and awarding government contracts."
Courtney said he is working on language to add to the defense authorization bill this spring or to use in a separate bill in case the Navy cannot accommodate the state's request.
The language would amend the acquisition rules so that the Defense Department could show some preference in awarding contracts to qualified firms in a state that is fully funding improvements at a military installation, Courtney said Thursday.
"The state is doing something that is unique in terms of contributing to operational improvements on the base, which really no other state has done," he said. "So I certainly think the statute should be looked at to give the state taxpayers some short-term economic stimulus with the jobs that obviously flow from that project."
Bob Ross, the governor's nominee for executive director of the state's Office of Military Affairs, said the state "started a partnership with the Navy unlike any partnership that ever existed between a state and branch of service."
"Instead of applying old rules to a new situation, maybe we should consider some new rules," Ross said Thursday.
Ross said he told Mabus' office that other states are paying close attention to the partnership between Connecticut and the Navy, and they might follow Connecticut's lead in funding improvements on a base, especially if it creates jobs.
"We can't take our eyes off the ball. The ultimate reason for doing this is to enhance the military value of the submarine base, and we believe that will reduce the likelihood that it will be targeted for BRAC," Ross said, referring to the Defense Base Closure and Realignment process. "Nothing is more important than that. This issue, as important as it is, is a secondary issue."