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Keeping military cash flowing to Conn.

By SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL and REP. JOE COURTNEY

Publication: The Day

Published December 13. 2012 4:00AM

Southeastern Connecticut residents know perhaps better than any the profound importance of continued support and funding for the state's defense manufacturing industry. The Southeastern Connecticut Enterprise Region calculates the influence to be 33,000 jobs and $3.3 billion in economic impact.

For the local economy, our national security and the safety of our service members, passage of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2013 is a landmark accomplishment that deserves celebration. In support of our brave troops and the thousands of men and women who work proudly and tirelessly each day in our state to build and maintain our vital defense assets, we were proud to join our colleagues in Congress in supporting the act.

While the NDAA secured unanimous Senate support earlier this month, the fight continues. This week the bill reaches a critical juncture. As members of the House and Senate Armed Services committees we will work to make sure these vital measures remain intact during conference negotiations to reconcile House and Senate versions of the bill. Bipartisan legislation of this magnitude does not happen without work in both houses, and we want to extend particular gratitude to retiring Sen. Joe Lieberman for his longstanding leadership on this issue.

In collaboration with our Connecticut colleagues, we have both worked to ensure that the National Defense Authorization Act of 2013 includes critical support for Connecticut's defense manufacturing industry. Both the Senate and House versions of the NDAA authorize two Virginia-class submarines in Fiscal Year 2013. They both also include $778 million in additional funding to move forward on a second Virginia-class submarine in fiscal year 2014 and include a multi-year contract that provides for continued production through 2018. The second submarine alone is projected to sustain as many as 1,000 jobs for Connecticut, Rhode Island and Virginia workers.

The skilled workforce at Groton will build on its legacy of innovation in undersea warfare with the $565 million authorized in the NDAA for the replacement of the Ohio Class submarine. We will advocate for the funding in future Navy budgets to ensure these important programs continue.

The bill additionally authorizes $6.9 billion in total funding for the continued development of the Joint Strike Fighter program, including acquisition of 29 JSF aircraft, powered by Pratt & Whitney engines. Further, the bill authorizes over $2.3 billion to procure Sikorsky helicopters, including 59 Black Hawks, 19 Seahawks and 18 Knighthawks.

As members of the Armed Services committees and in collaboration with our Connecticut colleagues, we aggressively fought the administration's request for an additional round of Base Realignment and Closures for the coming fiscal year and, working on a bipartisan basis, we ensured that the House and Senate bills both reject the proposal. Since 2007, the Connecticut delegation has secured more than $80 million in funding for new military construction at the Naval Submarine Base in Groton, strengthening its infrastructure and assuring that the base will remain a vital national security asset for years to come.

While there is no cause for complacency, our successful effort to reject the administration's BRAC proposal should send a strong, clear message that we will fight any plan that endangers the base.

While bipartisan passage of the NDAA deserves celebration, the threat of sequestration cuts looms. If allowed to take place, sequestration cuts would be damaging to southeastern Connecticut - and eventually all of our state - with job losses estimated at approximately 34,200 statewide. While we are optimistic that common ground can be found before reaching the end of the year "fiscal cliff," failure to do so would result in automatic across-the-board defense cuts. Without compromise, the successes of the NDAA we celebrate today are at risk.

Any compromise must recognize the need for additional revenues, including calling on the wealthiest citizens to pay a little more. Excessive subsidies and tax loopholes, such as those that support oil companies, should be closed. And we do not support proposals to cut Social Security as part of a fiscal cliff package. Social Security does not contribute to the federal budget deficit and should not be part of a deficit reduction agreement.

We are committed to working across the aisle to ensure that any compromise adequately supports and protects our troops and preserves Connecticut's proud tradition of providing cutting edge, life-saving military technology to our front lines.

Richard Blumenthal is a Connecticut senator and Joe Courtney the congressman from the state's 2nd District.

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