Conn. delegation urges Trump to restore $327M in Black Hawk funding
Donald Trump’s affinity for aircraft and military might is hitting turbulence in the “helicopter capital of the world.”
The president’s proposal to cut $327 million in military spending for Black Hawk helicopters for the National Guard — reducing the number ordered from 60 to 48 for the upcoming fiscal year — is sparking protests by Connecticut’s congressional delegation.
It’s a role reversal of sorts for a president who campaigned on promises to rebuild the military, with Democrats calling on Trump to restore funding for the Black Hawk, which is made by Sikorsky in Stratford.
“The president’s budget is less than meets the eye,” said U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., an Armed Services Committee member. “I’m very eager to make sure that Sikorsky continues the great work on its Blackhawk program, but also there’s an issue of readiness and capability for our National Guard. They need the Black Hawks.”
A request for comment was left Tuesday for the White House.
The tiff over Black Hawks is the latest wedge to come between the all-Democratic delegation and Trump’s administration, who have clashed on immigration, Affordable Care Act repeal, military action in Syria and Russian intervention in the presidential election.
The workhorse of the U.S. military for nearly four decades, the Black Hawk has become a symbol of air supremacy, from the 2011 Pakistan raid that killed Osama bin Laden to last year’s search-and-rescue missions in the southeastern U.S. after Hurricane Matthew. Sikorsky has been churning out about 100 a year for the past decade.
“We thank the entire Connecticut delegation for their support and engagement,” said Paul Jackson, a spokesman for Lockheed Martin’s Sikorsky business. “The Black Hawk helicopter plays a critical role in national defense. We appreciate all efforts to ensure our warfighters have the resources to deliver on their missions.”
Last week, Blumenthal and his Connecticut colleagues were among 11 senators and 20 House members who signed letters urging Congress to reverse Trump’s cuts to the Sikorsky program. Signers included U.S. Reps. Rosa DeLauro, Jim Himes, Elizabeth Esty, John Larson and Sen. Chris Murphy. The Senate version of the letter had one GOP signer, Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy.
On Tuesday, Blumenthal said he hoped to press Defense Secretary James Mattis on the Black Hawk cuts during an Armed Services Committee hearing. And the senator acknowledged that Trump is not the first president to target Sikorsky.
“This has been a sort a simmering battle,” Blumenthal said. “Essentially, we fight it every year.”
Last fall, a cavalcade of politicians led by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy celebrated the delivery of the 1,000th H-60M Black Hawk by Sikorsky to the Army. The milestone came shortly after the company renewed its commitment to keep its headquarters in Connecticut, after lawmakers overwhelmingly agreed to give it yearly grants of $8.6 million for 14 years if the company meets benchmarks for suppliers, job growth and payroll. Sales tax exemptions of $5.7 million a year are included in the package, plus incentives close to $2 million a year if job targets are exceeded.
The deal is expected to yield $69 billion in economic benefits over the next 16 years, according to the state.