Updated March 22 at 6:45pm

R.I. jobs at risk from sequestration, says defense group


MIDDLETOWN – Thousands of local jobs are at risk if sequestration is not averted and if Congress fails to complete a defense spending bill, according to the Southeastern New England Defense Industry Alliance.

In a letter to the state’s congressional delegation, the defense group said that the sequestration, scheduled for March 1, “could have catastrophic results.”

According to the group, the Rhode Island defense industry currently supports more than 12,000 jobs, with an annual payroll of more than $700 million.

“The impact could be a reduction of 2,520 workers by September 2013,” SENEDIA Executive Director Molly Donohue Magee said in her letter. Her figures, according to a release, were extrapolated from a sample of the group’s members that estimated there would be a combined reduction in their short- and long-term furloughs and terminations of more than 20 percent.

“In addition, given the economic multiplier effect of these cuts and their impacts, SENEDIA believes there will be a more immediate, extensive and negative impact on the local R.I. economy,” Magee added.

SENEDIA is an alliance of defense-related businesses and organizations, which draws the majority of its members from Rhode Island, but also comprises companies from southeastern Massachusetts and the Groton region of Connecticut.

The groups members include Sea Corp., Rite-Solutions, Chemart, McLaughlin Research Corp., General Dynamics Electric Boat, Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems and BEA Systems, among others.

“The threat of sequestration is imminent,” Jody Sullivan, SENEDIA member and member of the Newport County Chamber of Commerce, said in a statement. “We need our leaders in Congress from both sides of the aisle to step up now to ensure that we can continue to keep these jobs in Rhode Island that protect our national security.”

According to the organization, the U.S. Navy has already begun to implement cost-cutting measures that will “significantly impact the defense industry in Rhode Island.” The organization’s release said that since January, SENEDIA companies have already begun to furlough employees where funding for programs was deemed not “mission critical.”

“Future actions directly related to sequestration will have further negative impacts on the defense industry and will also impact government agencies and their civilian workforce in Rhode Island,” said the organization.

“We recognize the fiscal pressures our nation is under, and we know there are long-term reductions that need to be made,” Warren Blakeley of McLaughlin Research Corp. said in a statement. “However, we also believe a more thoughtful, deliberate budget solution can achieve those long-term goals and can help avoid the reactionary ‘whiplash’ measures which we are on the brink of seeing implemented.”

SENEDIA asked legislators to maintain a “continued focus” on working in Congress to ensure that sequestration is averted and that the Department of Defense budget is implemented as soon as possible for the 2013 fiscal year.

“I am hopeful that common sense will prevail so that our companies can continue to provide good-paying jobs to Rhode Islanders, who play a pivotal role in maintaining America’s national security,” Magee said. “That being said, we are entering the final hours of optimism.”


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