AP NEWS

DC BUZZ: Forget submarines, CT senators go to bat for another local defense contractor

March 29, 2019

WASHINGTON - Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy are not bashful about enthusiastically promoting the fortunes of major Connecticut defense players like Sikorsky, Electric Boat and United Technologies.

But they like to wrap their boosterism in high-minded appeals for greater national security and the weaponry needed to preserve our democracy. Submarines, helicopters and jet engines are the state’s best-known products. Joining the list now are propellers for aging Vietnam-era C-130 military transport planes.

Blumenthal’s office on Tuesday issued a letter written by Blumenthal, Murphy and eight other senators to Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson, calling on her to hasten purchase and installation of new NP-2000 propeller blades. The high-tech blades can be inserted and extracted “on-wing” from shopworn C-130s as if they were replacement air filters or tires on your car.

The C-130 remains the go-to aircraft for the Air National Guard, including the 103rd Airlift Wing stationed at Bradley Airport in Hartford. Blumenthal’s letter takes note of a Marine Corps Reserve C-130 crash last year in Mississippi, which led to uncovering “systemic problems in propeller-blade depot-level maintenance.” Although Congress has appropriated the money, “the Air National Guard has been unable to gain approval necessary from your office to allow a contract to be signed,” the letter told Wilson. “Delays from your office on this matter are unacceptable considering the inherent safety and readiness risks surrounding this issue.” But nowhere in the letter or the accompanying press release is it mentioned who makes the blades _ which defense contractor would benefit from the signing of that contract. A simple Google search showed the NP-2000 contractor is none other than Connecticut’s own United Technologies Corporation and its subsidiary, Collins Aerospace. And assembly, maintenance and sales are done out of Collins Aerospace’s facility in Windsor Locks, a company spokesman confirmed. “Collins Aerospace has more than 5,000 employees at sites across Connecticut, including several hundred that assist with propeller systems,” the spokesman said.

So Bingo that! Nothing wrong here, no skullduggery. In fact, Blumenthal’s propeller push is a plus for Collins Aerospace workers and the defense-based portion of Connecticut’s economy. But it’s always illuminating to dip behind the screen on Capitol Hill and see the sausage moving down the assembly line.

I saw Blumenthal at an unrelated meeting in the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday and mentioned this to him, including omission of the Collins Aerospace connection. “You figured it out,” he said to me, smiling, before moving on to another topic of conversation.

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Washingtonian magazine, the glossy D.C. version of Connecticut magazine, ran a feature of anonymous career federal employees telling what it’s like to work in government departments under sharply ideological (or sometimes clueless) Trump political appointees.

Some of it is pretty harsh. At the Labor Department, “We were forced to say the sky isn’t blue and the grass isn’t green.” And at HUD, Secretary Ben Carson and his crew are “some of the nicest people I’ve ever worked with, but they’re totally incompetent.”

But the Small Business Administration, directed by WWE-inspired Linda McMahon of Greenwich, gets a relatively light dusting. “Honestly, there has not been a whole lot of change for us, surprisingly,” opined one career employee. “Our administrator, Linda McMahon, is friendly with the Trump family and promotes their agenda _ I know she meets with Ivanka _ but other than that, I feel people who work in my office are not huge ideologues. It doesn’t feel like Trump’s people have taken over.”

So if you were expecting body slams and other theatrically boorish forms of behavior at McMahon’s SBA, looks like they stayed park at the WWE SmackDown.

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@danfreedma

dan@hearstdc.com