Saturday, February 09, 2013

GOP Extremism Hits Hampton Raods Defense Industry

Hampton Roads is about to be dealt a harsh economic blow as sequestration hits next month and the irony is that many local voters elected a trio of GOP extremists - Randy Forbes, Scott Rigell and Rob Wittman - who are part cadre of GOP saboteurs in the House of Representatives that are about to inflict the grievous economic wound to the region.  As the saying goes, be careful what you wish for.  Besides delaying the deployment of the carrier Harry S. Truman, the U.S. Navy has announced that it will delay sending the carrier Abraham Lincoln in for a lengthy and expensive ($3.3 billion) overhaul at Newport News Shipbuilding, Virginia's largest private employer.  Literally thousands of jobs are in limbo.  What's disturbing that Forbes, Rigell and Wittman never miss a beat in pandering to Christofascists and Tea Party elements of the Republican Party base, but when it comes to the jobs and livelihoods of thousands of Virginians they are missing in action and as Rhett Butler said to Scarlett, "don't give a damn."  A further irony is that but for GOP gerrymandering of congressional districts prior to the 2012 elections, Rigell would likely have been voted out of office back in November.  Both my partner and I have several family members employed at Newport News Shipbuilding, so these worries are personal.  But on a larger scale, perhaps some local knee jerk supporters of the GOP will finally open their eyes to the fact that today's GOP is toxic and a threat to the region's and nation's future.  Here are details from a Virginian Pilot piece on the coming GOP caused economic blows to Hampton Roads:

Ever since the Abraham Lincoln pulled into its new homeport at Norfolk Naval Station in August, the crew has been working to prepare the aircraft carrier for its midlife nuclear refueling.

But less than a week before the ship was set to steam to the shipyard in Newport News, the Navy announced it was postponing the elaborate overhaul because of a lack of funding - the latest in a line of drastic defense cuts tied to the federal budget crisis.  The Lincoln will remain moored at the Norfolk base until Congress resolves the shortfall created by its inability to agree on a budget, a Navy spokesman said.

"The fiscal uncertainty created by not having an appropriations bill, and the measures we are forced to take as a result, place significant stress on an already strained force and undermine the stability of a fragile industrial base," Navy spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Chris Servello said in a statement. The overhaul was timed to take place midway through the 50-year lifespan of the Lincoln, which was commissioned in 1989.

In addition to the Lincoln not being ready to deploy for a longer period, the postponement also affects other carriers scheduled to enter the shipyard. Particularly affected will be the dismantling of the recently inactivated carrier Enterprise, set to begin in June, and the pending refueling of the carrier George Washington, scheduled for 2016.

The change will affect numerous jobs at Newport News Shipbuilding. The Lincoln's "refueling and complex overhaul" is expected to take at least three years and cost $3.3 billion. Servello said the Navy's funding is short by $1.5 billion.

The move will also affect the local economy.  Weeks ago, the Navy released a list of tentative cuts because of the budget squeeze, including plans to cancel third- and fourth-quarter ship maintenance. Retired Rear Adm. Joe Carnevale, a defense adviser with the Shipbuilders Council of America, said those cancellations will cost tens of thousands of shipyard jobs nationwide and will have ripple effects for companies down the supply chain.  "In delaying the Lincoln's midlife overhaul, that's just going to add to the job losses," Carnevale said.

"The men and women who serve our nation in uniform deserve better than this," said Rep. Bobby Scott, a Newport News Democrat. "The men and women at Newport News Shipbuilding who build, repair, and maintain the most advanced naval fleet in the world, deserve better than this."

The announcement comes two days after defense officials canceled deployment of the aircraft carrier Harry S. Truman. The 5,000 sailors in the Truman strike group were to have deployed Friday, but the budget squeeze will keep them in port.

I hope that employees that end up being laid off take the time to thank their neighbors who voted for Messrs. Forbes, Rigell and Wittman.  Like most in the GOP these men talk a lot about supporting our troops and the military, but it's all talk.  The lunacy of extremists in the GOP base count far more to them than our men and women in uniform and hardworking men and women who build and maintain our nation's naval fleet. I increasingly find it embarrassing to admit that I was ever a Republican given what the GOP has become.

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