Congress urged to stop defence cuts
JUPITER THE uncertainty over automatic cuts in US defence spending to be triggered in January because of congressional inaction has spread to the engineers and project managers in South Florida’s aerospace industry.
Employees at Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne here say that both personal and corporate planning is on hold, with any new ideas of spending being reined in.
Fernando Diaz, 37, deputy programme manager for Pratt’s RL-10 rocket engine, said he and his wife of two years wanted to start a family. But now they aren’t sure if the time is right.
James Larkin, 51, a jet engineer at Pratt, has been through several boomand- bust cycles, but describes automatic cuts as “a ticking time bomb” for him.
With two teenagers at home, Larkin is worrying about how he will pay for college tuition if the cuts come. He’s recruiting fellow employees to raise awareness and write to Congress.
Corry Johnson, a 31- year-old hypersonic propulsion engineer, says he and his wife are holding off on buying a first home for their young family until there is more clarity on his job security.
Pratt & Whitney, a unit of United Technologies Corp, is considering moving some engine-production work for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighters — and over 200 jobs — to the Florida plant, but may re-evaluate this move if the F-35 production rate falls due to the pending defence cuts, Pratt President David Hess said.
While the impact of the cuts is hotly debated in Washington, there’s no doubt about the alarm felt by defence contractors, who have embarked on a campaign to publicise them. Their situation demonstrates that while Congress has learned to live with stalemates and stopgaps and last-minute cliff-hangers, the rest of America has not.
The term “do nothing Congress” is a misnomer, suggests Johnson. Congress is doing something even when it’s not, he says.
“When you’re required to make a decision and you don’t make one, that is a decision,” he says.
It was a year ago this month that lawmakers set in motion the $55 billion in defence cuts for the first year, to begin in early January, along with an equal amount of cuts in non-defence discretionary programmes and agency budgets.