Furloughs impacting submarine work at Electric Boat
The Hartford Courant
HARTFORD, Conn. — Submarine work at Electric Boat plants in Connecticut and Rhode Island has been slowed by the loss of civilian federal inspectors who left their posts after the federal government shutdown, Navy officials said Thursday.
The news follows a Wednesday announcement that United Technologies Corp., the giant defense manufacturer whose companies include Pratt & Whitney and Sikorsky, would furlough thousands of its employees if the shutdown extends into next week.
With helicopters and jet engines, as well as submarines, the story is the same. Federal inspectors are needed to approve parts and assemblies. They move work along, and they give final approval to push completed work out for delivery.
The military's office in "Groton is unable to support certification of Electric Boat work for submarines under construction and maintenance which has limited impact on key events and constructions milestones at this time," said Chris Johnson of the Naval Sea Systems Command. "However, if the furloughs continue, the impact will become more severe potentially limiting a submarine's ability to get underway."
The government shutdown began Tuesday morning after Congress failed to pass a continuing resolution that would extend funding levels for federal offices and their employees. The fight centered on House Republicans' efforts to delay funding for the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, a move that Democrats rejected outright.
Ten submarines are currently under construction between Electric Boat's Groton and Quonset Point, R.I., locations, with north of 9,000 employees working in Connecticut, including the company's New London site. Furloughs affected 217 of the office's approximately 250 inspectors at the Office of the Supervisor of Shipbuilding, Conversion and Repair, Johnson said.
"The military there are able to do some of the work," he said of the about 30 military employees of the Groton inspection office. "But over time, we're going to see some serious impacts."
Of late, work disruptions have become a way of life at Electric Boat. In May, 750 employees were furloughed for one day a week because of the across-the-board defense cuts known as the sequester. Then, as it is now, the workforce changes won't affect safety or national security, officials said.
Bob Ross, executive director of the state's Office of Military Affairs, said that Electric Boat will be fine if the shutdown doesn't stretch out too long. But "if this drags out that may not be the case," he said.
"Everybody is pretty consistently expressing form every level of every organization that the first few days have been painful," Ross said. "But the pain is going to increase to a level that's unacceptable, and the spill over into the private sector is going to continue."
If lawmakers fail to reach a resolution by Monday, Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. will furlough 2,000 workers, the company said. A shutdown that lasts into the next week would cause its parent company, UTC, to send home another 2,000. And if budgetary problems last into next month, the giant defense manufacturer said, furloughs would reach 5,000.