Congress may be on its summer break, but Connecticut’s delegation has been busy visiting defense manufacturers.
From small manufacturing companies like Capewell Components in South Windsor to large ones like Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation in Stratford, where officials announced they were laying off 200 people in June, Connecticut’s delegation has sought to highlight how integral the industry is to the state’s economy.
Just this month, Electric Boat announced it was laying off 500 employees in large part due to the Navy’s decision to scrap rather than repair the USS Miami, which was damaged by fire.
In March, Connecticut’s Office of Fiscal Analysis warned that the state could lose about $906.5 million in annual defense spending as a result of sequestration. The defense industry is worth about $25 billion a year in Connecticut, according to the OFA.
On Monday, U.S. Rep. John B. Larson took his first tour of Triumph Group Inc. in West Hartford with state Sen. Beth Bye.
The aeroparts maker purchased the Goodrich pump and engine control systems business from Hartford United Technology Corp. this past March. The West Hartford-based company builds electronic engine controls, fuel metering units, and other parts for both military and commercial aircraft and helicopters.
It currently employs 570 people and is still hiring, according to Paul Glover, a consultant for Triumph Group Inc.
Even though it hasn’t had layoffs directly tied to sequestration, the company has had to scale back some of its innovation due to lack of seed money, according to lawmakers.
“You can see how the federal money has helped them innovate to save the military money, to make the helicopters work better,” Bye said. “But they need more seed money.”
She said during the tour there were three engineers working on how to make the power supply of an engine more efficient, but there’s no money to move forward with the product. Bye said the company is looking for machinists trained in both the old way and the new way of manufacturing these parts.
At the moment, the company focuses on engine controls that are both electronic and hydromechanical. Glover said they concentrate on small engines at the moment, but are looking to get back into the large engine pumping business. He said they’re also looking at the all-electric engine control.
“Electric engine control is several years away, but we have to be there. We have to work on it,” Glover said.
“And that’s where the investment makes all the difference,” Bye added. “ You have a company like this that’s looking forward and with sequestration how are they supposed to continue?”
But research and development is another victim of sequestration, Larson said.
Larson calls the sequester an “artificial construct” of the U.S. Congress.
“I think this is just a misguided effort to use a meat cleaver to the government when a scalpel was in order,” Larson said. “Hopefully, members returning from their home districts having heard from the general public are going to come back with a different attitude.”
But he was not completely optimistic based on news reports he’s seen from other parts of the country.
“There still is an effort from the more radicalized members in Congress to shut down government over the Affordable Care Act and continue with sequestration even though our military is testifying, even though the Pentagon is testifying, even though it’s hurting our manufacturing base,” Larson said.
“Connecticut should already be experiencing the effects of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the tanker, helicopter money that we’ve received. Instead, not that the contracts are going away it’s just that they’re postponed,” under sequestration.
But with the Republican majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, Larson is skeptical anything will happen to reverse sequestration, which includes $43 billion in defense program cuts. Over the next 10 years, defense cuts are supposed to total $500 billion.
Congress returns from its summer break in September.
In the meantime, Triumph has not received any money from economic development programs run by the state of Connecticut. But Bye said it still has workforce needs and is partnered with Asnuntuck Community College, which helps give students on-the-job training in manufacturing. Students from the college spend one day a week at Triumph as part of their education.