Rep. Elizabeth Esty and Sen. Chris Murphy are teaming up on legislation aimed at thwarting Pentagon contract awards to overseas manufacturers.
The American Jobs Matter Act would require the Defense Department to view its contracts through the prism of creating or retaining U.S. jobs. From 2007 to 2013, the U.S. Department of Defense spent over $700 billion on manufactured goods, with over $150 billion spent on goods produced overseas, Esty said. During the same period, she added, the United States lost an estimated 1.7 million manufacturing jobs.
Murphy, who represented Connecticut’s 5th District before Esty, has introduced parallel legislation in the Senate. He championed the same piece of legislation as a House member.
For Esty, there are few subjects higher up on her agenda than high-tech manufacturing jobs in Connecticut. She’s a believer in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) education and hooking up tech skills taught at community colleges with manufacturing, which more and more requires workers to have some college-level education in these areas.
Last year Esty helped win a $1.7 million federal grant for Naugatuck Valley Community College in Waterbury to support manufacturing training. The college’s president, Dr. Daisy Cocco De Filippis, was Esty’s guest at President Obama’s State of the Union address to Congress on Tuesday.
“I’m proud to join Senator Murphy in introducing the American Jobs Matter Act,’’ Esty said. “It makes no sense to spend our taxpayer money funding jobs overseas when we could support jobs right here at home.’’
Exhibit A: The Pentagon’s awarding a contract to a Russian helicopter manufacturer to supply Afghan forces as U.S. troops gradually withdraw from embattled nation. The Pentagon has justified the contract on the grounds that Afghan forces are more familiar with Russian helicopters because of the Soviet presence in Afghanistan in the 1970s and 1980s. Sikorsky Aircraft of Stratford would be a possible beneficiary if the Russian contract were ever to be canceled.
“Too many manufacturing jobs in Connecticut have been lost to foreign firms because the Department of Defense doesn’t give preference to American manufacturers when awarding defense contracts,’’ Murphy said. “That needs to change.’’
With Republicans in charge of both sides of Capitol Hill, prospects for passage of the Esty-Murphy bill are not bright. But the measure is not in conflict with Republican economic ideas. So the possibility exists it could get rolled into a larger package and land on the president’s desk someday.
“Rep. Esty strongly believes that efforts to support U.S. manufacturing have real potential for bipartisan support, particularly when it comes to spending U.S. tax dollars supporting American workers over foreign workers,’’ said Esty’s spokeswoman, Laura Maloney. “She’ll be making that case to her Republican colleagues to earn bipartisan support.’’