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State

Avoid cuts in sequester and pass defense spending bill
By Michael H. Michaud & Chellie Pingree
Feb 20, 2013 - 12:18:09 AM

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Representatives Mike Michaud and Chellie Pingree released a letter they wrote to Congressional leaders today, urging them to head off drastic defense spending cuts and pass a funding bill that would avoid the loss of work at Bath Iron Works (BIW) and the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard (PNSY).

Michaud and Pingree say defense-dependent companies in Maine, including BIW and PNSY, face two problems: the threat of arbitrary and extreme spending cuts under the so-called sequester, and the lack of a funding bill for the Defense Department. Without that funding bill, the Department would operate on last year's spending authority, which would not allow the startup of new projects, including some new ship construction at BIW.

In a letter today to top Congressional leaders, Michaud and Pingree wrote:

Recent information provided by the Navy indicates that both PNSY and BIW would face dramatic cuts if the sequester is implemented or Congress fails to pass a defense budget and resorts to a continuing resolution (CR) for the remainder of the fiscal year. In anticipation...the Navy will begin taking cost-cutting actions this month, including reducing funding for deployments, canceling ship maintenance in Quarters 3 and 4, cutting base operations andsupport, making selected furloughs, and freezing civilian hires. In the coming months, they would cancel more ship repairs, including on the USS Miami...Additionally, a direct consequence of the yearlong CR is the cancellation of a DDG 51 currently scheduled to be awarded in FY13, which will threaten the ship's multiyear procurement plan and the associated $1.5 billion in savings.

"Time is running out for Congress to put our country on a sustainable fiscal path before across-the-board spending cuts occur," said Michaud, who wrote to congressional leaders in August urging them to take action to avoid sequestration. "We cannot shirk our duties anymore. I've been urging my colleagues for months to act, and now Congress is leaving Washington for a week without anything to show for it. Issues of this magnitude cannot be put off any longer."

Earlier this week Pingree, who is a member of the House Appropriations Committee, talked to the chairman of the committee about theneed to pass a defense spending bill. Pingree and Congressman Hal Rogers discussed a bill that would also continue funding for the government based on last year's spending levels but would include new spending authority for the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs.

"Chairman Rogers understood that without new spending authority for the Defense Department, important projects at Bath Iron Works and the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard would be at risk," Pingree said. "He understands the problem and is willing to work across the aisle to fix it."

Pingree also spoke to Navy Secretary Ray Mabus last week about the impending cuts from a sequester and the lack of a defense spending bill, and her concerns about the impacts on Maine.

Michaud and Pingree both asked Speaker Boehner to keep Congress in session next week to solve the impending budget crisis, and both voted against sending Congress home for recess.

Full text of the letter:

February 15, 2013

The Honorable John Boehner
Speaker

The Honorable Nancy Pelosi
Democratic Leader

The Honorable Eric Cantor
Majority Leader

The Honorable Steny Hoyer
Minority Whip

U.S. House of Representatives

Dear House Leadership:

We are writing to express our concerns about the effects that the sequester and a yearlong Continuing Resolution (CR) for Fiscal Year 2013 would have on the U.S. Navy and workers in Maine. We support finding a balanced approach to reduce our deficits and address our long-term debt, but Congress must act to ensure that any reductions in spending are made carefully and in a manner that avoids job losses.

Recent information provided by the Navy indicates that both Portsmouth Naval Shipyard (PNSY) and Bath Iron Works (BIW) would face dramatic cuts if the sequester is implemented or Congress fails to pass a defense budget and resorts to a CR for the remainder of the fiscal year. In anticipation of the sequester and a yearlong CR, the Navy will begin takingcost-cutting actions this month, including reducing funding for deployments, canceling ship maintenance in Quarters 3 and 4, cutting base operations andsupport, making selected furloughs, and freezing civilian hires. In the coming months, they would cancel more ship repairs, including on the USS Miami, reduce ship operations and flying hours, and cut exercises and port visits.

Additionally, a direct consequence of the yearlong CR is the cancellation of a DDG 51 currently scheduled to be awarded in FY13, which will threaten the ship's multiyear procurement plan and the associated $1.5 billion in savings. These actions would have a devastating effect on defense facilities -- and their employees -- across the country, including PNSY and BIW in Maine. PNSY employs 4,700 civilians, and BIW employs more than 5,000 employees. Cuts to these Navy programs will jeopardize approximately 10,000 jobs at these facilities alone.

These cuts will also have a severe effect on the thousands of jobs in the defense supply chain in Maine made up by dozens ofsmall businesses throughout the state. Simply put, Maine's economy will be devastated if the Navy is forced to take these measures to reduce their spending.

We are pleased that the House Appropriations Committee is preparing a CR that would ensure the Navy will not have to take all of these steps to reduce its funding. We urge you to bring sensible legislation to the floor as soon as possible to responsibly address these looming appropriations and sequester questions and prevent thousands of Mainers from losing their jobs.

Sincerely,

Michael H. Michaud & Chellie Pingree
Members of Congress


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