Issue Date: September 13, 2004
Could shipbuilding cuts turn tide of election?
By Jason Sherman
Times staff writer
Severe cuts in the shipbuilding accounts of the Navy’s new six-year spending plan would trigger thousands of job losses in states that could play a pivotal role in this year’s presidential election.
If enacted, the Navy’s proposed 2006-2011 program objective memorandum could lead to more than 5,000 layoffs at shipyards in Virginia, Louisiana and Maine. Mississippi, considered a Republican stronghold, also faces job cuts.
The ripple effect of these cuts would also hit workers at shipyard suppliers in states that are on the front line of this year’s battle for control of the White House, including Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania and Michigan.
The prospect of such cuts could influence voters in these states.
“It could make a difference in the way we vote,” said James Jelinek, president of Flo-Tork, Inc., in Orrville, Ohio, which makes devices used on valves on submarines. “It’s not the only issue, but it’s an important one — not just for our jobs, but for the United States of America. I’m sure other people feel the same.”
Jelinek, whose company has 60 employees, oversees a group that lobbies to support funding for the Virginia-class submarine, which steers work to 99 companies in Ohio alone.
Lawmakers concerned about the political fallout from steep cuts to shipbuilding accounts have summoned Navy leaders to Capitol Hill to explain behind closed doors why accounts for new ships — $6 billion to buy four vessels in 2006 — are so low.
Sen. John Warner, R-Va., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, is troubled by what those cuts could mean for his constituents. The Navy’s plan for a one-year delay in funding for its new-generation aircraft carrier, the CVN-21, would force 1,000 layoffs at Northrop Grumman Newport News in Virginia and result in 300 indirect job losses, according to sources at the shipyard.
“I would look with great concern on any delay in funding for this critical program,” Warner said in an Aug. 16 statement.
Facing even larger cuts are shipyard workers in Louisiana and Mississippi at the Avondale and Ingalls operations of Northrop Grumman Ship Systems.
To avoid laying off up to 4,000 workers who build big-deck amphibious ships in those states, the company says it must commence work on the LHA(R), which is optimized for aviation, as soon as 2006. However, the Navy’s proposed budget does not provide funding until 2007.
“We are looking at this with keen interest,” said Phil Dur, president of Northrop Grumman Ship Systems. “It’s too early to look at it with alarm. I think it’s too early for me as a shipbuilder to make any business decision on that basis.”
The Navy has repeatedly said they don't need more/new ships, they need more sailors for the ones they have. Who knows where the truth lies?