Gauging the situation of local defense contractors, U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt was in Springfield Friday meeting with more than a dozen business leaders from around the region. KSMU’s Scott Harvey was in attendance and has this report.
Contractors of various items like suspension systems, security technologies and ground support services offered input during the roundtable discussion inside Springfield’s Army National Guard Armory.
A few weeks ago, Blunt announced he would serve on the Senate Armed Services Committee, which over the next several months will be busy preparing for a new Secretary of Defense and a deficit reduction agreement to avoid automatic budget cuts, known as sequestration.
“I think in the next couple of years we’re [Armed Services Committee] gonna have as much to say about the next 20 to 25 years of how we defend the country as you almost ever do,” Blunt told business leaders.
Kim Wilkins is with Champ Industries in Seymour, which builds ground support equipment that’s used in the function and maintenance of various defense aircrafts. She says that due to the indecisiveness in Congress, her company is unable to obtain the contracts they need to survive, which has led to a huge economic decline at Champs over the last two years. Wilkins hopes Sen. Blunt will rally support for the defense industry.
“For the last several years that hasn’t been the primary focus. We’ve been in a war for a long time, we’ve destroyed a lot of equipment, and we need to maintain the equipment that we have,” Wilkins said.
Blunt says Congress has got to find a way to cut spending everywhere, including defense, but where he’ll focus is on areas that no longer are needed.
“I’m going to be looking for specific things that are duplicative or no longer really have defenders in the military of things we need to do. And hopefully we can get that done. But we’re clearly going to see some cuts happen.”
Honeywell Building Solutions installs and maintains safe, secure, and energy-efficient systems. For the past three years, Project Manager Dallas Wheat has been on base at Ft. Leonard Wood conducting a large energy project. He came to learn more about ESPC, or energy savings performance contracts.
“The private industry puts up the money; we do the work up front and we get paid out of savings. And how is the budgets going to affect those type of contracts and stuff? Because we’re not using funded money, we’re putting up our own money,” Wheat said.
The Senator says Missouri’s percentage of workforce involved in defense contracting is one of the highest in the nation, with 125,000 employed directly by the industry, and another 80,000 receiving a check from the military, either as a civilian employee or a service member.