The defense spending plan unanimously passed out of the Senate Armed Services Committee Thursday will help retain and create jobs in Connecticut’s defense contracting industry, the state’s U.S. Senators said Friday.
The $683 billion plan includes substantial funding for aircraft engine manufacturer Pratt and Whitney, nuclear submarine builder Electric Boat, and helicopter manufacturer Sikorsky, Sen. Joe Lieberman and Sen. Richard Blumenthal said in a conference call with reporters.
The package includes:
– Authorization for 32 new F-35 Joint Strike Fighters. Pratt and Whitney will be the sole manufacturer of the Joint Strike Fighter engines.
– Plans for authorizing two new Virginia-class attack submarines each year, to be built by Electric Boat. That equates to $3.2 billion for two subs in 2012 with another $1.5 billion for advance procurement of additional subs in 2013 and 2014.
– $1.067 billion for the development of a replacement for the Ohio-class submarine designed to carry nuclear missiles.
– Authorization for 114 new Sikorsky Blackhawk helicopters for various military services.
– Increased investment in the Sikorsky CH53K Super Stallion transport helicopter, which will be the largest helicopter in the military.
The package the Senate committee passed contains a notable victory for Pratt when compared to the measure passed by its House of Representatives counterpart. The House committee plan allowed for General Electric to develop an alternative engine for the F-35, at its own expense, Lieberman said.
“We countered that and the language that came out of the subcommittee, that I’m privileged to chair, says that none of the money authorized in this bill can be obligated or expended for anything related to the GE engine,” he said.
None of the money GE may choose to spend can ever be reimbursed under any future Defense Department contract either, he added.
Blumenthal called the measure a “historic blueprint for the future of our national defense and overwhelming vote of confidence in the weapons systems made here in Connecticut.”
Lieberman said that in an era of little resources and no earmarks, the support the legislation gives to Connecticut based defense manufactures was really a merit selection.
“They earned it. The workers, the management, the companies earned it,” he said on a conference call with reporters. “I believe the major defense contractors in Connecticut have reason to either begin or continue hiring.”
The spending plan also calls for the military to be using at least 25 percent renewable energy by 2025. Blumenthal said that’s good for Connecticut, a state that produces fuel cells.
Beyond it’s benefits for Connecticut, he said, the defense budget is historic for frankly addressing the issue of sexual assault in the U.S. military by authorizing means to collect and keep evidence. That will create an effective deterrent by making prosecution of sexual assaults easier, he said.
“It sends a very strong message for the U.S. Senate Arms Services Committee and hopefully from Congress as a whole that we will simply not tolerate sexual assault and will punish it severely,” he said.
The measure also provides for greater services for returning veterans, including job training, integration programs and behavioral health treatment, he said. And if the measure is adopted, military members can expect to get a 1.6 percent pay increase, he said.