STRATFORD — U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal and U.S Rep. Rosa DeLauro will tour Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation later this morning to explore ways that the federal government can support Connecticut’s industries and defense manufacturers in light of sequestration and budget cuts.
Earlier this year, hit by global cutbacks in government spending, Sikorsky Aircraft laid off 200 workers. The Stratford-based company, a unit of United Technologies in Hartford, said the layoffs affect about 1 percent of the company’s 18,000-person global workforce.
The majority of the layoffs were in Connecticut, where Sikorsky has 8,600 employees — the largest company employee population by far, The rest are spread across its operations in eight other states.
In response to the layoffs, DeLauro, whose district includes Stratford, said she will back legislation that supports defense spending in the state.
In March, the state Office of Fiscal Analysis warned that the state could lose about $906.5 million in defense spending as a result of sequestration action in the federal budget, severely impacting the state’s $25 billion defense industry. At the time, Sikorsky said it was bracing for cutbacks.
The White House in March had predicted that more than 3,000 defense workers in the state could be furloughed because of the Department of Defense budget cuts.
A study by George Mason University predicted more than 36,000 job losses in Connecticut’s defense industry, creating a $4.2 billion drop in gross state product. The Center for Security Policy placed state defense cuts at $2.2 billion this year.
Much of the blame for the layoffs can be ascribed to gridlock in Congress and budget sequestration, Blumenthal said.
“Unfortunately, the impact of the sequester — unnecessary and unwise cuts across the budget — remains in effect and will continue to be a factor in the defense budget,” he said. “I have led my colleagues in the Senate in urging the Secretary of the Air Force to continue its Combat Rescue Helicopter program, and I am hopeful that programs such as this, combined with new international sales opportunities, will sustain and support the outstanding workforce at Sikorsky.”
Meanwhile, Sikorsky and Lockheed Martin have filed a bid to build a new presidential fleet of 21 helicopters based on a veteran model that has more than 550,000 flying hours and is operated by 10 heads of state around the world, Sikorsky officials said.
The White House helicopters — dubbed “white tops” for their distinctive white roofs — are staffed by Marine Corps aviators and referred to as “Marine One” when carrying the president. The fleet currently uses two types of helicopters, one based on the Black Hawk airframe and one based on the Sea King. Both are Sikorsky-built, and are at least 30 years old.
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