U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal said Friday he sees a bright future for Connecticut’s defense manufacturing sector, regardless of whether Congress votes to authorize U.S. intervention in Syria.
President Barack Obama has sought Congressional authorization for military intervention in Syria where the administration says President Bashar al-Assad’s government used Sarin gas, a banned chemical weapon, outside Damascus.
Blumenthal’s colleague, U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, voted Wednesday against a resolution authorizing a strike. Blumenthal, who serves on the Senate Armed Forces Committee, said Friday he still has questions about the perimeters of the intervention, which need to be answered before he decides how to vote on the matter.
“Certainly, I approach this process in a very deliberate, cautious way because so much is at stake,” he said. “There are enormous risks in action as well as inaction. I want to approach this in a very sober, deliberate way.”
Blumenthal said he believed the Assad regime was responsible for the use of chemical weapons in the country.
“What the response should be from the world community and what role the United States should play in any military strike remains to be determined through this resolution. But the [Obama] administration is still presenting its case,” he said.
Blumenthal said the administration’s case needs to answer questions from lawmakers in a more “clear and convincing way” before intervention is authorized. He said legislators are looking for details on how the scale of military action can be limited and have clearly defined objectives. He said he would also like to see a plan to involve the international community and plans on how to limit casualties.
Whatever path the nation takes with regard to Syria, Blumenthal said the products of Connecticut’s defense manufacturing industry will still be in demand.
“To be very blunt and clear, the situation in Syria is entirely separate from defense industry spending, partly because what we make here in Connecticut can stand on its own as valuable to the country, regardless of what happens in Syria,” he said.
On Friday afternoon, the senator was touring Bloomfield defense contractor Kaman Aerospace. The company manufactures bearings, composites, and other parts for both military and commercial aircraft.
Blumenthal said Kaman’s products will be necessary independent of any military intervention in Syria.
“In the long term it will be of enormous value. Helicopters are part of our defense future, they are part of our national security. Not just in the next six months in Syria, but in the next six or 60 years in the United States,” he said.
The same goes for submarines, the Joint Strike Fighter, and other types of defense hardware with roots in Connecticut, he said.
“[Submarines] are involved in, potentially, the situation in Syria, but we are going to need them regardless of what’s done in Syria for conflicts around the world that involve our national security,” he said.
While at the Kaman facility, Blumenthal also got a demonstration of the company’s unmanned “K-MAX” helicopter. Eric Remington, the company’s vice president for investor relations, said the aircraft has been flown by troops in Afghanistan since late 2011.
During the demonstration, a pilot sat in the aircraft’s cockpit to comply with federal regulations. But as Blumenthal and media members watched, the helicopter took off, lifted a crate off the ground, flew in a small pattern and returned the crate to the ground.
The pilot kept his hands off the flight controls during the short flight while ground operator Tony Fontana piloted the helicopter using a device bearing a close resemblance to a Playstation control.
Remington said the military wanted the controls to be intuitive and a video game controller is something many 18- or 19-year-old Marines may be familiar with.
“That’s what they know,” he said. “We wanted it to be a simple as possible.”
Remington said Kaman has the capacity to operate the aircraft stationed in Afghanistan from their Bloomfield facility using the system they developed.
Blumenthal called the demonstration “awesome and part of our future.” Although, unmanned aerial vehicles often are associated with the drones carrying out military strikes, Blumenthal said they have a number of other potentially vital functions.
“This UAV is used to deliver supplies and equipment, and to remove it. So it will be very important to drawing down in Afghanistan. To avoid roadside bombs but get our equipment and supplies out of the country,” he said.