Wisconsin Military Contractors Argue For Sustained Funding, With Defense Cuts Looming

DRS Technologies, Newport News Shipbuilding Make Case To Media

Above, the U.S.S. Gerald Ford sitting in drydock during construction at the Newport News Shipbuilding yards. Photo: Public Domain.

Military contractors in Wisconsin are trying to maintain work and jobs in the state, though an analyst says the federal government is serious about budget cuts to the Department of Defense.

When Matt Mulherin, the president of Newport News Shipbuilding, came to visit DRS Technologies in Milwaukee last week, the news media were invited to drop by. DRS supplies electronics for the aircraft carriers Newport makes. U.S. involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan has been scaled back, but Mulherin argues the huge ships are still needed.

“There is a lot of trade — international trade — that goes on,” said Mulherin. “And it goes on over the seas. The U.S. Navy are the people out there defending those sea lanes.”

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A DRS vice president, Vincent Stammetti, says the country has to be prepared for threats to world peace in places like the Ukraine and North Korea.

“I would advocate that we really don’t know what’s going to happen, and if we’re not ready we’ll regret that,” said Stammetti.

Stammetti says the DRS plant in Milwaukee employs about 350 people. Eventually, the fate of some of those jobs, and those of other Wisconsin workers at locations with military contracts, could depend on defense spending budget controls enacted in the last few years. Todd Harrison of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments says the Pentagon seems to be shifting its emphasis to Asia and the Pacific.

“That’s the greater emphasis on air and sea power,” said Harrison. “And so the question is, what’s the carrier’s role in this?”

Harrison says DRS and Newport News Shipbuilding aren’t the only defense contractors trying to make their case with the news media, politicians and taxpayers.