Labor unions and legislators in Connecticut are gearing up to fight the Pentagon’s decision to cancel a key jet fighter program.
It’s estimated that up to three thousand jobs in the state’s aerospace industry could be at risk if the Obama Administration goes ahead with its timetable to end production of the F-22. But Congress will still have a say on the defense budget, and John Larson of Connecticut’s first district says at least 200 representatives are known to oppose the cancellation.
"I feel rather confident that this isn’t going to go through, this won’t stand. The F-22 is, as all the Air Force has testified, both in term of its efficiency, in terms of burn, and in terms of stealth capability, is precisely what the United States needs in order to keep its edge."
Defense Secretary Robert Gates did announce more cash for the next generation Joint Strike Fighter, but that may not come soon enough. James Parent, of District 26 of the International Association of Machinists represents thousand of workers at engine maker Pratt & Whitney.
"It’s almost impossible to stop production on one type of aircraft like the F-22, and immediately transition into a brand new jet fighter. You need that lag time, you need to be able to ramp up your suppliers, you need to set up your production lines to be able to produce this new fighter – there needs to be some lead time."
Parent is coordinating a lobbying effort by his members to get the message across in Washington. Meanwhile state legislators also want to join the effort. State Senator Gary LeBeau says its not just jobs at Pratt and Hamilton Sundstrand that are of concern.
"Particularly among the small manufacturers, if we just lose this job and there’s a two or three year gap, we just can’t come back in two or three years and say, ok pop back out again – you know, just regenerate yourselves. These companies will go out of business and we’ll lose those skills, and we may lose these people to other states."
LeBeau is calling on Governor Jodi Rell to convene a task force to coordinate a united strategy to fight the plan.