By Richard Gaines
While the largest federal employer on Cape Ann, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, will make its contribution to the massive sequestration spending cuts without a single day’s furlough for its 200 professionals, local private contractors to the Pentagon report a more checkered impact.
Gloucester’s oldest continuous seafood processor and distributor, Gorton’s, which has a $7.7 million contract to provide products to military commissaries, has found its sales “down slightly,” Vice President Paul Coz said Tuesday.
“We sell products to the military for sale in commissaries — which are being closed one day a week,” he said,
Axiam Inc., which is situated in Blackburn Industrial Park, supplies custom computer programming software and services to the U.S. Navy and Air Force that is used to assemble jet engines, has been insulated from the sequestration cuts so far, according to Donald Lohin, the chairman, president and chief executive officer.
Gorton’s, which has been located on the waterfront since 1849, and Axiam Inc., founded in 1983, are Cape Ann’s largest government contractors. Axiam, according a report by the nonprofit Center for Security Policy, had $830,000 in government contracts in 2011.
Lohin said the “software tooling and proprietary software” gives the assembly process “better quality.
“As a result, we save them money — 40 to 50 times the investment — so we haven’t seen any impact,” he said. “Our Air Force contract was renewed a few months ago; the Navy contract is not up but has been 80 percent renewed.”
The Times was unable to reach spokespeople for Bomco, which makes aircraft engine parts at the end of Gloucester Avenue and was reported to have had $189,577 in government contracts in 2011, or Toffler Associates Inc., a Manchester-based firm whose web site describes it as a Pentagon think tank. The survey of local firms with government contracts placed Toffler third in the value of its contracts, with $361,198 in 2011.
Toffler describes itself as designed “to help anticipate what ‘disruptive’ new technologies and concepts our enemies might develop to harm the U.S., and help develop ideas for how to neutralize those enemy strategies.”
Renco Corp., another Manchester firm, which produces safety, security, laboratory and medical products, has not been affected yet by sequestration, said Richard Renahan, president of the 40 year old firm which lists the Pentagon and branches of the military among its clients.
“We’re working on a contract for Arnold Air Force Base’s security systems in Tennessee,” said Renahan.
He noted that Renco was especially proud of work it did on the International Space Station in the late ‘90s, and is now creating “anti-microbial” and other health care products.
The original federal sequestration plan announced in February by then-acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank was for NOAA to deal with the spending cuts through furloughs across the workforce, though Blank also assured Congress that mission essential assignments by the National Weather Service would not be covered. Pressure built on NOAA to exempt the weather service from the furloughs after the outbreak last month of deadly tornadoes in Oklahoma.
Kathryn Sullivan, who has been serving as acting administrator of NOAA since the resignation last February of Jane Lubchenco, said in her email to employees that the savings required from NOAA would be achieved by other means. Sullivan’s memo was published in the Washington Post’s weather blog early Saturday morning.
The Commerce Department and NOAA did not respond Tuesday to multiple requests for the alternative plan to cut spending. U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski, whose office was sent a copy of the furlough-free plan, also declined to discuss it or release it, referring inquiries to the Commerce Department and NOAA.
NOAA’s 200 employees at the Northeast regional office in Blackburn Industrial Park were forewarned in April that they would be facing four furlough days between June and Sept. 30, the end of fiscal 2013. Nationally, NOAA Fisheries were assigned to reduce spending from $896.5 million by $73 million.
The sequestration or formulaic reduction in spending across most programs — exempting Social Security and Medicare — of about $85 billion a year through 2021 was the result of a failure in 2011 for the Obama administration and Congress to agree on a set of spending reduction and taxes that would lower the substantially lower the federal deficit.
The degree and location of actual sequestration cuts has been difficult to identify and quantify, with Democrats condemning the approach and conservative Republicans bemoaning the effort as lip service.
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