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    Sunday, June 23, 2024

    Outlook for Connecticut's defense economy is strong, state's military office says

    Tens of billions of federal defense dollars went to Connecticut last year, and with no sign of that slowing down, the outlook for the state's defense industry is expected to remain strong over the next five years.

    That was the major takeaway in the most recent report on Connecticut's defense economy released annually by the state's Office of Military Affairs.

    "That's good news for the industry because that helps companies plan," said Bob Ross, executive director of the office.

    Connecticut companies received nearly $14 billion in federal defense contracts in 2018, the year covered by the report. That same year, two defense spending bills were passed, an unusual occurrence given that Congress was delayed in passing the defense budget for the previous fiscal year.

    Together, the defense bills provided very substantial funding for the submarines, jet engines and helicopters manufactured in Connecticut.

    U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, whose 2nd Congressional District includes submarine builder Electric Boat, said the outlook presented in the report is "extremely positive," particularly in the shipbuilding category in which Connecticut "catapults" to the top of the list.

    The report shows that Connecticut, one of only two places where U.S. Navy submarines are built, is ranked first in shipbuilding with an expected $9.2 billion to be spent here in fiscal year 2020. Virginia, the other state where submarines are built, comes in second with $7.4 billion projected to be spent there next fiscal year.

    Submarine funding is expected to drastically increase in the coming years given the construction of a new class of ballistic missile submarines, known as the Columbia class.

    "There's no indication that there's going to be any lagging in the near future, particularly as Columbia goes online," Courtney said.

    Connecticut, home to Sikorsky and Pratt & Whitney, also ranks high in the aerospace industry, coming in third behind Texas and California.

    Federal defense spending overall is expected to increase drastically in the coming years given that Congress, in early 2018, increased the spending caps on defense and non-defense spending put in place under the Budget Control Act of 2011. That reset spending limits for fiscal year 2020, enabling an additional $20 billion to be spent on defense, and an additional $27 billion to be allotted for non-defense spending.

    The report also touts the Office of Military Affairs' continued efforts to protect the Naval Submarine Base in Groton from downsizing or closure, including the demolishing of old infrastructure on base to make way for a more modern campus.

    While another so-called base realignment and closure round has not been requested, any future requests would likely include new criteria such as the quality of public schools in the region, state efforts to address military spouse unemployement, and relocations due to the effects of climate change and sea level rise, the report says.

    j.bergman@theday.com

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