Day after Sikorsky cuts, Senators backing state's defense jobs
While Sikorsky Aircraft was announcing plans Thursday to lay off 200 workers, U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy was in Washington hoping to prevent more of that from taking place.
Murphy, a first-term, Democratic senator, introduced a bill on Thursday afternoon designed to bolster defense-sector manufacturing jobs that are plentiful here -- but that, as the Sikorsky cuts made clear, are increasingly under pressure as the federal budget sequestration cuts government spending.
The "American Jobs Matter Act," which Murphy was working on well before the Sikorsky announcement, seeks to force the Department of Defense to consider how its various manufacturing contracts would impact American employment.
In a statement on Friday, Murphy's office noted that out of $700 billion spent by the Defense Department on manufactured goods over the past five years, $124 billion went to purchase goods made in foreign countries. Meanwhile, the country has lost 1.7 million manufacturing jobs, the release said.
"This is a very simple proposal," Murphy said in the release Friday, after joining workers and business owners from defense manufactures across Connecticut in Hartford. "The Defense Department should give preference to American manufacturers when awarding federal defense contracts."
He added: "I've traveled the state hearing from manufacturers who keep Connecticut's defense industry strong and the message is clear: Every job that we create overseas by awarding contracts to foreign firms is one less job here in America. It's time to change that."
Murphy's bill -- co-sponsored by U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., who was also at the Hartford summit; Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio; and Jeff Merkley, D-Ore. -- has been referred to the Senate Armed Forces Committee.
The federal budget sequestration has raised fears across the state's $25 billion defense industry. In March, the state Office of Fiscal Analysis warned that Connecticut could lose $906.5 million in defense spending. Meanwhile, the White House predicted that more than 3,000 defense workers here could be furloughed because of Department of Defense cuts. Finally, a study by George Mason University estimated that a potential 36,000 job losses in the state's defense industry could create a $4.2 billion drop in gross state product.
Responding to those studies Friday, Ron Angelo, deputy commissioner for the Department of Economic and Community Development, said that state officials these days must be especially helpful toward the defense industry.
"We took a hit yesterday, but we've got a lot of good things going in Connecticut," Angelo said. "We have to keep our eye on the ball. We have to keep our efforts in communicating with these companies, making sure we're meeting their needs, making sure if there are opportunities to retain their existing workforce or retrain them that we're working toward every single angle to mitigate against potential future cuts."
Blumenthal, in a prepared statement about his and Murphy's bill, agreed.
"American dollars should support American jobs," he said. "Our American defense manufacturing workers -- particularly those in Connecticut -- exhibit exceptional expertise in producing the highest quality equipment for our service men and women. The Department of Defense should make every effort to buy American, promoting economic growth and military security."
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