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Sun, Apr 12, 2009

Legislators Scramble For F-22 Support To Save Production Jobs

Thousands Of Workers Hang In The Balance

On the heels of Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates' announcement last Monday of his budget recommendation to cut off production of the Lockheed Martin F-22A Raptor, legislators from states where F-22 components are made began drumming up support for congressional votes to continue the fighter's production, thus saving thousands of worker's jobs.

The Hartford Courant reports US Sen. Christopher Dodd and Rep. John Larson put in an appearance at engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney's union hall in East Hartford, CT Thursday afternoon, declaring their intent to gain the support of other members of congress whose states are also home to workers whose jobs depend on continuation of production of the F-22.

"You don't have to convince Secretary Gates," Larson said, explaining that members of congress ultimately approve or reject defense budgets. "That's why we have co-equal branches of government."

So far, 200 of Larson's fellow congressmen have already indicated their support of continuing the F-22, which is only 18 votes short of the number needed to pass a budget bill.

Although Gates said the US doesn't need more F-22s, Dodd said Air Force leaders have said they want more of them, which "ought to speak volumes to members of Congress. This is not just about whether we can hold jobs at a time when we're losing too many," but also about maintaining US air superiority, he said.

Dodd's plan is to rally support for production of 20 F-22s a year, about the same number necessary to keep production lines going until production of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter begins.

United Technologies Corp. said about 2,000 to 3,000 Connecticut jobs depend on the continuation of F-22 production. UTC owns Pratt & Whitney and Hamilton Sundstrand, both major F-22 suppliers.

James "Jay" Tridenti, 24, and his wife, Jamie, are new hires at Pratt & Whitney's Middletown, CT factory. Both are worried about keeping their jobs if Gates' proposed cuts are made. "We came to Connecticut for these jobs," Jay said.

FMI: www.pratt-whitney.com, www.hamiltonsundstrand.com, www.defenselink.mil

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