The F-22 Raptor is by far the most expensive military jet fighter in U.S. Air Force history. Now, after committing to ordering 183 of the nearly $140 million aircraft — down from an initial order of 750 jets — the Defense Department has had enough, a move that jeopardizes thousands of jobs in Connecticut and across the nation.
Connecticut’s defense contractors employ tens of thousands of workers, with the state ranking as the ninth largest recipient of defense contract dollars and the third highest recipient per-capita in fiscal year 2007, according to Governor M. Jodi Rell’s Economic Report on the coming two fiscal years. Effectively, the Connecticut economy receives constant federal stimulus in the form of military contracts. But if the government were to decrease military spending, as President Barack Obama has suggested, the effects in Connecticut would be drastic.
“We will … reform our defense budget so that we’re not paying for Cold War-era weapons systems we don’t use,” Obama said in his speech to Congress last month, a statement Connecticut politicians said they took as code for defense spending cuts.
“The Pentagon has relied on Connecticut craftsmanship for decades from everything from submarines to jet engines,” Rell said in an e-mail message to the News. “Our defense sector is made up of one of the most highly skilled and dedicated work-forces in the nation.”
Corporations such as Groton, Conn.-based submarine developer General Dynamics Electric Boat and United Technologies Company — the parent of Pratt & Whitney, developer of the F-22’s engines, and Blackhawk helicopter maker Sikorsky — are essential to the Constitution state’s economy, the report said.
One defense contractor employee who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press said he was troubled that Obama would suggest cuts, unnecessarily putting people’s jobs in jeopardy during this economic crisis.
“We are spending hundreds of billions of dollars bailing out these companies on Wall Street,” he said, “but we can’t afford to buy the military technology that will keep us safe?”
Indeed, for Connecticut, government defense spending is synonymous with economic stimulus — the F-22 contract alone provides two to three thousand state jobs, according to United Technologies Company executives. But the government has decreased the number of orders by 567 planes.
The reality is, as Secretary of Defense Robert Gates noted in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, the fighter is unnecessary for either current or projected conflicts, especially considering the development of the newer F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. (The F-22 has not seen combat in either Afghanistan or Iraq.)
But Lockheed Martin, the lead contractor on the F-22, along with United Technologies Company executives and members of the Connecticut Congressional Delegation, are each lobbying the Obama administration to buy at least another 20 jets.
A delay, said Erin Dick, communications director for Pratt & Whitney Military Engines, will begin to affect Connecticut’s economy as soon as this year.
“Pratt & Whitney’s F-119 engine program represents more than 2,000 high-quality, high-technology jobs in the United States,” she said. “These are the highly skilled manufacturing jobs that America needs to ensure we have the capability to support key defense programs in the future.”
Robert Hamilton, director of communications for General Dynamics Electric Boat, said that in response to the Navy’s acquisition plans for the new Virginia-class nuclear submarines, the company would stabilize its 8,000 person Connecticut workforce. He said the company is always hiring workers just to keep pace with normal attrition. But he noted that during the economic crisis, there has been an increased interest in vacant positions.
Indeed, the effects of investing in defense programs would transcend just national security. Martin Feldstein, an economics professor at Harvard University and the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors under President Ronald Reagan said increasing military procurement would create jobs here at home.
“The current two-year stimulus period provides an opportunity for additional temporary spending increases with high payoffs,” he said in an opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal in December. “A substantial short-term rise in spending on defense and intelligence would both stimulate our economy and strengthen our nation’s security.”
But it is not just the large corporations that operate with Department of Defense money, Rep. Rosa DeLauro of New Haven said.
“Our district is also filled with many small businesses, the life-blood of our economy, that do work crucial to meet the needs of our defense department, including medical care for our military personnel and energy efficiency,” she said in an e-mail to the News. “That work not only translates into more jobs and greater economic growth in the district, but also vital products to various sectors outside of defense.”
While the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act provides approximately $882 per capita, Connecticut received nearly $2,500 per capita in defense contracts in fiscal year 2007, according to Rell’s Economic Report.