The Senate passed a $716 billion defense policy bill for the next fiscal year that would continue to support Connecticut defense contractors including Electric Boat, Pratt & Whitney, and Sikorsky.
“Five percent of our country’s defense contract spending is done in Connecticut and every dollar of it is critical to our national security. Submarines, F-35 engines, and helicopters are proudly produced in this arsenal of democracy and this NDAA will authorize funding to preserve Connecticut’s part in protecting our national security,” said Senator Richard Blumenthal, a member of the Armed Services Committee.
Similar legislation has already been approved in the House, setting up negotiations between the two chambers to hammer out a final version of the bill that would then be presented to the House and Senate for an up-or-down vote.
The bill, which establishes military policies, would improve readiness and training in the Navy in light of a string of tragic collisions at sea. It would limit overseas homeporting of vessels in order to make certain they receive proper thorough maintenance, as well as requiring a report on the training and readiness of Navy surface ships to ensure all certification standards are up to date, Blumenthal said.
Among the differences in the House and Senate bills is a Senate provision that would block the sale of F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jets to Turkey unless the Trump administration certifies that Turkey is not threatening NATO, purchasing military equipment from Russia or detaining U.S. citizens. Pratt & Whitney manufactures engines for the F-35.
While blocking the sale to Turkey, Blumenthal said the Senate bill does include significant funding for the F-35 program — $10.4 billion to provide 75 of the jets to the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps. At the committee level, Blumenthal said he pushed for additional funding for F-35 modernization and spares.
The Senate bill would also invest nearly $7.6 billion for attack submarines that are manufactured in Connecticut and Virginia. There is also $3.8 billion for Sikorsky-built helicopters including the Marine Corps CH-53K, Army UH-60M Black Hawks and a new combat rescue helicopter for the Air Force. Another $894 million would be used to purchase six Sikorsky VH-92A helicopters that would be used for presidential transport.
Overall, the NDAA bill would authorize $639 billion for the military to pay for personnel, maintain bases, and purchase weapons and equipment. It also authorizes $69 billion in contingency funding for ongoing conflicts mainly in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Blumenthal issued a press release highlighting other provisions in the bill related to Connecticut, including:
• An additional $20 million to enhance collaboration between the Navy, the University of Connecticut, and Electric Boat – providing new and innovative ways to improve the design and construction of future submarines and autonomous undersea vehicles.
• $2.3 billion for the Air Force to purchase 14 KC-46A aerial tankers that are equipped with engines from Pratt & Whitney.
• $2.3 billion to fund research and development of a new stealth bomber. Pratt & Whitney is one of seven major contractors for the program.
• An additional $74 million to modernize the Air Force’s C-130H fleet. The aircraft utilize UTC Aerospace System’s NP2000 8-bladed composite propellers.