More Money For Helicopters, Submarines, Jet Engines Made In State
By Christopher Keating
The Hartford Courant
January 21, 2014
$12.8 Billion For Connecticut-Built Submarines
The $1 trillion spending bill passed last week by Congress will bring billions of dollars to defense contractors and subcontractors throughout Connecticut.
"This is a major win for Connecticut, as well as for national security and defense," U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal said Tuesday. "It's a major win because we will preserve our workforce and existing levels of employment this year. As much as we decry dysfunction in Washington, these were cost-effective, smart investments."
The budget compromise approved by both the House and Senate includes more money for Electric Boat submarines, Sikorsky helicopters and Pratt & Whitney jet engines. Besides money for the big-name companies, the funding will help hundreds of small subcontractors in Connecticut that manufacture parts and components for the big products.
The total includes $3.3 billion for Sikorsky helicopters, including Blackhawks for the Army, Seahawks for the Navy and Nighthawks for the Marines.
"People say, 'Why do you need more Blackhawks if you are winding down in Afghanistan?'" said Blumenthal, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee for the past three years. "The answer is if you want to take out Osama bin Laden, you need Blackhawks."
He added, "A lot of people are war-weary and averse to defense spending, but America needs to protect itself against countries and terrorists who would do us harm."
The biggest news in southeastern Connecticut is that Electric Boat in Groton will get a shot in the arm with a move to fund two submarines a year — a level that has been in jeopardy in the past. Submarines have a life expectancy of about 30 years, and subs are being retired on a regular basis. High-tech replacements are needed at a cost of about $2 billion each.
"The spending bill passed in the House is a major victory for Connecticut's defense industry and our economy as a whole," said U.S. Rep. Joseph Courtney. "The full commitment to submarine production and development is a strong indicator of the critical role of our nation's undersea fleet in America's national security strategy and a reflection of the hard work done each and every day by the men and women of Electric Boat."
Courtney added, "In a tough budget climate, and with most defense programs experiencing cuts to meet reduced budget resources, the 22 percent increase in funding for Virginia Class submarines is a tremendous win."
The House passed the bill in a bipartisan 359-67 vote. Overall, 64 House Republicans and three Democrats voted against it. The spending bill for the 2014 fiscal year was passed last Thursday in the Senate, 72-26. The funding package will ensure that there will be no government shutdowns through the end of the federal fiscal year on Sept. 30.
The approved funding marks a "departure from the years-long trend of temporary spending measures, shutdowns, and patchwork solutions,'' Courtney said. "The budget we passed in December, coupled with this spending bill, will roll back a significant amount of sequestration cuts and provide certainty and flexibility for agencies to make necessary investments in the near term. While there is still more work to be done to avoid sequestration's indiscriminate damage in the years ahead, I hope that these bills mark a turning point for this Congress, and foreshadow a willingness to put aside partisan politics and take up the challenges facing our nation."
The bill allocates $6.5 billion for the Virginia Class submarines, including $3.9 billion for two submarines in the 2014 fiscal year and $2.4 billion for two subs in the 2015 fiscal year.
The bill also includes billions of dollars to purchase aircraft in the controversial Joint Strike Fighter program that has previously led to clashes in Congress.
"It's vital to Pratt & Whitney," Blumenthal said. "It's absolutely essential to American air superiority. We can protect vital interests at home and abroad because we are superior in the air."
Aside from the military hardware, Blumenthal successfully pushed for the bill to include $25 million to ensure that victims of sexual assault in the military have their own lawyer and $20 million for suicide prevention and mental health treatment.
The submarine funding will support a new generation of boats that operate in shallow water and move at faster speeds. Although the top speed is classified, the submarines are cutting through the water at a quicker pace.
"I can't tell you exactly how fast they go, but they can go in excess of 25 knots, which is in excess of 29 miles per hour," Blumenthal said. "Thirty miles an hour might not seem like a lot when you are in a car, but if you are underwater, it is really fast."