Furloughs may hit defense manufacturers due to government shutdown

Posted Friday, Oct. 04, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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Defense manufacturers are starting to feel the effect of the federal government shutdown, which may force them to slow production and furlough workers.

United Technologies said it may furlough more than 5,000 workers starting next week because government inspectors who work with defense contractors are not on the job.

In Tarrant County, both Lockheed Martin and Bell Helicopter said Thursday they are evaluating how the government shutdown will affect their operations.

“There will be impacts on both our manufacturing processes and aircraft deliveries, but we do not yet know the extent of those impacts,” Bell said in a statement.

Gordon Johndroe, vice president of media relations at Lockheed Martin, said the company is “currently in discussions with our customers to assess how the government shutdown will impact our specific programs. Any effect on our operations, workforce and subcontractors during the government shutdown depends on individual contract terms and of course, the length of the shutdown.”

In Grand Prairie, the top executive at American Eurocopter said the company cannot deliver commercial or military helicopters because the Federal Aviation Administration and the Defense Contract Management Agency are shut down.

“We already have several aircraft parked in our hangars that cannot be delivered. Tens of millions of dollars are at stake,” said Marc Paganini, president and chief executive officer. “All helicopter manufacturers and fixed-wing aircraft manufacturers are facing the same situation.”

The Aerospace Industries Association called on Congress and President Obama to reach a bipartisan solution to reopen the government, saying that companies will be forced to furlough thousands of workers due to the lack of inspectors and certification staff on the job.

In a prepared statement, the group today called the shutdown “a tragic mistake” that is unnecessarily harming the economy and threatens to stop the flow of new equipment to the armed forces.

United Technologies said its Sikorsky division, which makes Black Hawk helicopters, would be hit first. It expects nearly 2,000 employees, including those employed at facilities in Connecticut, Florida and Alabama, will be furloughed on Monday.

The Hartford, Conn.-based manufacturer said furloughs of government inspectors leaves it without the necessary federal approvals to make military products.

If the shutdown continues through next week, the furloughs would extend to its Pratt & Whitney and UTC Aerospace Systems division, bringing the total number of employees on hold up to 4,000. That number could exceed 5,000 if the shutdown stretches into next month. United Technologies makes landing gear systems for Lockheed Martin’s F-35 fighter jet.

Lockheed Martin Aeronautics employs more than 14,000 in west Fort Worth, where it builds the F-35 and F-16 fighter jets. Lockheed also has 2,700 workers at its Missiles and Fire Control unit in Grand Prairie. Bell employs nearly 7,000 locally, mostly at its headquarters complex in east Fort Worth.

“This is what happens when House Republicans decide that political gamesmanship is more important than people’s jobs,” Connecticut’s Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, a Democrat, said. “It’s unconscionable that so many working families would be unfairly put in this situation.”

Staff writers Yamil Berard and Steve Kaskovich contributed to this report, which includes material from The Associated Press.

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