If lawmakers fail to reach a resolution by Monday, Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. will furlough 2,000 workers, the company said. A shutdown that lasts into the next week would cause its parent company, UTC, to send home another 2,000. And if budgetary problems last into next month, the giant defense manufacturer said, furloughs would reach 5,000.
"The inability of Congress and the White House to reach a federal budget agreement and end the government shutdown has severely impacted and in some areas completely stopped Sikorsky's ability to manufacture and support helicopters used by all branches of the United States military," Sikorsky said in a statement.
- Haar: Aerospace Industry Caught In Crossfire
- PICTURES: Sikorsky Through The Years
- Prolonged Shutdown Would Furlough Thousands Of Aerospace Workers
- PICTURES: Pratt & Whitney Through The Years
- PICTURES: Pratt & Whitney PurePower Engine
- Pratt & Whitney Layoffs
- Pratt & Whitney Vows To Replace Damaged Flags
- Pratt & Whitney To Use 3D Printing In Jet Engine Manufacturing
- U.S. Government Shutdown (2013)
- National Government
See more topics »
Sikorsky has already slowed production on the Black Hawk helicopter now that federal contracting inspectors have left their posts on furlough because of the government shutdown. And the same federal employees at Pratt & Whitney in East Hartford are also on furlough, delaying the delivery of engines and spare parts, a spokesman said.
The inspectors, from the Pentagon's Defense Contract Management Agency, were deemed nonessential government employees and were furloughed Tuesday. It's their responsibility to examine defense contractors' work, such as helicopters or jet engines. Their sign-off moves work along to the next step in assembly and sends a completed order out the door for delivery.
"[It's] so hard to build helicopters when they can't be inspected," Gregory J. Hayes, UTC's chief financial officer, said in a meeting Tuesday with Wall Street analysts.
If the economic engine that these companies represent seizes, the harm won't be isolated within their walls. The slowdown will creep into the hundreds of in-state and regional manufacturers that feed parts and material into the aerospace plants.
The government shutdown began Tuesday morning after Congress failed to pass a continuing resolution that would extend funding levels for federal offices and their employees. The fight centered on House Republicans' efforts to delay funding for the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, a move that Democrats rejected outright.
Federal and state officials quickly pressed their argument that the shutdown is bad news for the economy.
She added, "The political games must end to keep these hardworking men and women on the job, prevent further pain for working families and end the damage it is inflicting on our economy."
U.S. Rep. John B. Larson, whose district includes the Pratt plant, said, "It's sad to see the eagle won't be flying because of an artificial shutting down of the government by an ideologically driven, unrelated concern about a health care program that is law."
"It defies logic, but that's what we're dealing with down here," he said.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said that "the people of Connecticut, and of the entire United States, deserve better."
"This is what happens when House Republicans decide that political gamesmanship is more important than people's jobs," Malloy said in a written statement. "It's unconscionable that so many working families would be unfairly put in this situation."
The combination of the federal shutdown and the sequester has already begun to weigh on Sikorsky, given the status of the furloughed inspectors, although predicting the overall effect is hard to tease out at this point. "We're not going to know much until I think we get this Washington mess sorted out," UTC's Hayes told analysts.
Last year, the Stratford-based helicopter manufacturer won an $8.5 billion, seven-year contract to build more than 650 Black Hawks. Defense work, like the Black Hawks, makes up three-quarters of Sikorsky's sales, Hayes said, while throughout UTC it's about 18 percent of sales.
Messages on the voice mail of federal inspectors at Pratt said that "due to a lapse in federal funding, employees have been furloughed." Pratt spokesman Ray Hernandez said that the shutdown "directly affects our ability to meet our military customers' mission requirements."
Sikorsky spokesman Jackson declined to comment when asked about the number of inspectors at Sikorsky facilities, but an industry source indicated that the helicopter manufacturer has about 45 federal inspection employees.
The initial impact of the shutdown "is manageable for a short time," said Jackson. Although, he added, "Any extended government shutdown will considerably impact our business."