Military Spending Measure With Billions For Conn. Wins Senate Approval
Harford Courant
Stephen Singer
September 18, 2017
A nearly $700 billion military spending measure, with billions for Connecticut manufacturers of submarines, jet engines and helicopters, won U.S. Senate backing Monday.
The National Defense Authorization Act, which earmarks money for 2018, was approved in the House in July. Differences between the two versions — the House version is $696 billion and the Senate bill is slightly less — will force a conference to present one bill that can be sent to President Donald Trump for his signature. The Senate bill passed 89-8.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the bill restores the full $1.8 billion for the Columbia class submarine program at Electric Boat in Groton and Rhode Island.
It also includes $6.4 billion for Virginia class submarines, which is $1.2 billion more than Trump’s request for a third Virginia class submarine in the 2020 budget year.
The increased spending comes as Pratt & Whitney ramps up jet engine manufacturing, Electric Boat prepares for a three-submarine-a-year rate of construction and Sikorsky plans for the manufacture of heavy-lift helicopters.
Funding for workforce training will now be crucial and the Trump administration has proposed cuts.
“The workforce will be new and of unprecedented magnitude,” Blumenthal said.
The spending bill also includes more than $12 billion for 94 Joint Strike Fighters across the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps. It adds 24 more than Trump’s budget request.
East Hartford-based Pratt & Whitney is the sole enginemaker for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
The spending bill also includes $1 billion for 48 Black Hawks, $1.3 billion for six heavy-lift helicopters — two more than Trump’s budget request, and $354 million for the Air Force’s combat rescue helicopter program.
Budget caps adopted in 2011 were exceeded when the legislation passed the House in July. One analyst questioned how Congress can achieve the spending set in the bill.
Blumenthal said he believes the total amount approved will “be the common consensus.”
Other provisions include $7 million in military construction funding for Connecticut’s National Guard complex at Bradley International Airport, $25 million to expand University of Connecticut research into workforce partnerships for submarine and undersea programs, and $201 million for aerospace propulsion research.
The money can be used by UTC Aerospace Systems, a United Technologies Corp. business, to develop high-efficiency heat exchangers to help improve and regulate next-generation fighter jet engines.