Automatic federal spending cuts pose a risk to some of Connecticut's major employers, U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., said Wednesday, and legislators must work toward a deficit reduction that does not jeopardize national defense programs.
Addressing reporters in a media briefing at Pratt & Whitney in East Hartford, Murphy vowed to fight to reverse the effects of budget sequestration, advocating instead for a more measured approach to federal spending cuts.
"Many of us believe that we ultimately do need to downsize the overall federal budget and the defense budget in order to reduce our deficit," Murphy said. "I think we should do it on a time schedule that is much less aggressive and much less catastrophic than what was mandated as part of the sequestration plan."
The spending cuts create uncertainty in terms of impact on specific programs. Sequestration, Murphy explained, imposes a 5 percent cut per year on the military budget. That's not enough to end a program like the F-35, which the senator described as "among the most important military programs that we fund today," but it could have an effect.
"It will simply reduce the number of planes and engines that are bought on a yearly basis," Murphy said. "The problem is that if we're not buying at the rate we had originally planned, we're putting our national security at risk."
Murphy spoke just a day after President Obama signed H.R. 933 into law, funding the government through Sept. 30. The legislation also included funding for the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Homeland Security, Justice and Veterans Affairs
"The only thing worse than sequestration for the defense budget would have been a failure to pass a new Department of Defense appropriations act," Murphy said. "If the Defense Department was stuck on a continuing resolution, they simply would not have had enough money to operate."
During his visit to Pratt & Whitney, Murphy met with Chief Operating Officer Paul Adams and leaders from Military Engines and Operations. He later toured the Turbine Module Center and met with employees in the shop. The senator visited Sikorsky in Stratford, Conn., on Wednesday afternoon and Electric Boat in Groton, Conn., on Thursday.
"The defense industry is an essential component of Connecticut's economy," Murphy said, "and I didn't want 100 days to go by in my Senate without coming to the major defense companies in Connecticut and pledging them my support."