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2019 was a landmark year for Connecticut's defense industry

Military contractors in Connecticut had their most lucrative year in more than a decade in 2019, receiving $37.1 billion in defense contracts last year.

That's according to the State of Connecticut Office of Military Affairs, which has tracked contracts received by the state’s defense industry since 2007 and releases an annual report on the outlook for the industry. 

In reality, the value of defense contracts awarded in 2019 to Connecticut companies or companies doing business in the state was likely higher than $37.1 billion, as the report only relies on prime contracts worth $7 million or more. The previous high was in 2014, when the report recorded $27.1 billion in contracts.

The growth in 2019 was spurred by the $22.2 billion contract the U.S. Navy awarded to Electric Boat last December for the construction of nine Virginia-class attack submarines — the largest shipbuilding contract ever awarded by the Navy. The contract includes the option to purchase a 10th submarine, which would increase its value to $24.1 billion.

In addition to the record-breaking contract, Congress passed a defense budget that resulted in $30 billion for Connecticut-based defense programs this fiscal year, including the purchase of helicopters, jet engines and submarines all manufactured in the state.

Defense contractors, deemed essential businesses during the coronavirus pandemic, have continued to fare well, similar to what happend during the 2008-09 recession, said Bob Ross, executive director of the Office of Military Affairs.

At the time, Connecticut firms with both defense and commercial arms saw their commercial business lag but were kept busy by their military contracts.

"We're seeing some of that again," Ross said. "For example, commercial aviation has been struck by the (coronavirus) pandemic, but the military aviation side has kept going."

In the past three years, the growth in defense contracts has mainly been related to submarine construction at EB and jet engine manufacturing at Pratt & Whitney.

"Suppliers have been busier than ever, particularly for submarines," the report says. "Such high level of defense production will likely be the case for many years to come, as Connecticut continues to produce and maintain the world’s most sophisticated nuclear submarines, state of-the-art military jet engines, and a variety of military rotary wingaircraft used worldwide."

j.bergman@theday.com

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