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Report cites "outstanding" year for Connecticut's defense industrial base

A report from the Connecticut Office of Military Affairs said the state's defense industrial base had an "outstanding" year, with $18.3 billion in contracts awarded in 2020, the fourth highest since 2007.

But the report said the $18.3 billion figure is conservative, as it's based on DOD's daily announcement of contract awards, which only applies to contracts over $7 million.

"The state's high level of defense production will likely to be the case for years to come, as Connecticut continues to build and maintain the world's most sophisticated nuclear submarines, state-of-the-art military jet engines, and a variety of military helicopters used in the United States and worldwide," the report stated. "Simply put, the future for the state's defense economy is very bright."

The OMA report detailed some of the spikes in contract awards over the past decade. Total contract awards for the state shot up from $8.7 billion in 2013 to $27.1 billion in 2014, mainly due to a $17.6 billion contract awarded to Electric Boat for 10 "Block 4" Virginia-class submarines.

At the time, this was the largest Navy shipbuilding contract ever awarded, a record surpassed with a $22.2 billion contract to Electric Boat in 2019, a year that saw $37.1 billion awarded in contracts in Connecticut.

The report noted that looking at the spikes "can give the impression of economic instability in the CT defense industrial base" but this isn't the case, because the total amount of a contract DOD announces is spread out over many years.

This was the office's annual report, for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2021.

It comes out late because much of it is based on Department of Defense information that is organized around the federal fiscal year, which ends in September, OMA Executive Director Bob Ross said. His office's annual budget is $182,170, with much of his administration handled by Department of Economic and Community Development staff.

This report highlighted some findings from a report the DOD's Office of Local Defense Community Cooperation released in October: Connecticut ranked third in defense spending as a percentage of state GDP, at 8.2% compared to a national average of 2.8%.

The state ranked second in defense spending per capita in Fiscal Year 2020, at $6,646 compared to a national average of $1,803. The OLDCC report listed New London as having the fifth-highest defense contract spending in the country.

During the last fiscal year, OMA worked to make magnet and charter schools more accessible to military families, who are often transferred in the summer and can't establish residency in time for lotteries. But superintendents started a program to hold back some seats for highly mobile families.

Last year, Gov. Ned Lamont signed a law aimed at expediting employment for military spouses by making professional licensing easier.

The OMA report also touched on Sikorsky and Pratt & Whitney contracts, financing and planning for the National Coast Guard Museum, and COVID-19 prevention efforts at the Naval Submarine Base in Groton, noting that in a single day, vaccines were distributed to more than 1,000 sailors and Navy personnel.

One of the reasons OMA was created in 2007 was the "very real probability" that the submarine base would be closed, as DOD twice targeted it for closure in the Base Realignment and Closure process.

The report noted that "subject matter experts widely believe DOD will eventually request another BRAC round" but the submarine base "is now in a much better position to withstand another round of BRAC."

e.moser@theday.com

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