House Armed Services Committee Member: Groton Sub Base Likely To Stay Open
Submarine Fleet Will Be “Critical” To National Security
June 7, 2011U.S. Rep. Adam Smith, a ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, said Monday that despite the challenging economic times, he believes that Groton’s Naval Submarine Base has become a military facility that is likely to endure.
“The sub base, having survived the most recent (base review) process, has now been built up, is much more (a) cornerstone of our national security strategy and is much more likely to be here for the long-term,” he said.
He said later, “I think that we’ve made our decisions. This is where we build our subs.”
U.S. Rep. Joseph Courtney invited Smith to Groton to tour Naval Submarine Base New London and Electric Boat, and highlight the work being done that allowed submarines to be produced ahead of schedule.
Smith said he was impressed by the manufacturing improvements.
“The way they’ve been able to shrink the time that it takes the time to complete a submarine, I mean, the talent that they’ve applied to these problems is saving us money and also producing a first-class product,” he said. “I was very pleased with what I saw.”
The two saw the training equipment at the sub base, the technology center of Electric Boat, the area where command systems for submarines are tested, and the main assembly building at EB. They also went aboard the Mississippi.
Courtney, who sits on the House Armed Services Committee, said he was encouraged by construction taking place at the base.
“Every time I go there, there’s something new,” he said.
The sub base recently broke ground on a $2.48 million addition to Nimitz Hall, which will include a high-tech submarine simulator that teaches officers and crews how to navigate waters.
Smith said he recognizes the importance of maintaining a skilled workforce to handle technical jobs and leaves with a more complete understanding of work being done so he can argue the case.
“It’s a very complicated picture in terms of figuring out what our national security needs are going to be long term,” Smith said. “But I think one thing is very clear: Our submarine fleet is gong to be critical to that. It is the one piece of equipment we have that can go anywhere in the world and be relatively invulnerable.”
“Troops to Teachers” Provides A Win-Win Opportunity
Yesterday, Congresswoman Doris Matsui (D-CA) helped secure support for an amendment she sponsored with Reps. Joe Courtney (D-CT) and Tom Petri (R-WI) to expand the existing Troops to Teachers (TTT) program. The amendment to the FY 2012 National Defense Authorization Act would reduce existing eligibility requirements in TTT, thereby opening the program to more Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.
“With their proven service, diverse backgrounds, and leadership traits, our nation’s veterans can serve their country again by serving as teachers in our country’s most vulnerable schools,” said Congresswoman Matsui. “I have seen firsthand the success of this program by visiting teachers in my district who returned from service and used the program’s stipend to help pay for teaching certification classes and exams. This amendment is a win-win for our veterans and our students.”
The Troops to Teachers program, originally created in 1994, provides qualified troops with financial incentives to teach in the nation’s neediest schools, but unfortunately only included a relatively small number of districts nationwide. Since its inception, TTT has placed over 12,000 veterans in our nation’s classrooms.
The amendment, if passed, reduces the threshold of service requirements for those who have served since 9/11 from six years to four years, making many Iraq and Afghanistan veterans eligible for the program’s $5,000 education stipend. This amendment is designed to allow participants to teach at any school that receives Title I funds, and result in a 49-percent increase in the number of schools eligible for TTT.
The amendment also establishes a Troops to Teachers Advisory Board to be composed of the DOD director of the program, a representative from the Department of Education and representatives from state TTT offices and veterans service organizations. This board would develop best practices for improving recruitment of eligible service members into the program, increase awareness within eligible school systems, and coordinate the goals of the program with other federal, state, and local education needs and programs.
The board will also address the need to improve awareness of the program, both to eligible members of the military and to communities with a need for highly skilled teachers in key subject areas. It will be required to prepare an annual report to Congress on key elements of the program, including the number of participants in the program, what subjects they are teaching, and where they are serving.
The Amendment mirrors legislation introduced Monday by Reps. Matsui, Petri and Courtney, H.R. 1974, the Post-9/11 Troops to Teachers Enhancement Act.
To see Congresswoman Matsui’s prepared remarks for debate on the House floor in support of the Courtney/Petri/Matsui Amendment, please click HERE.
House members introduce missing-children bill
By Bernie Becker
A bipartisan group of lawmakers announced they were introducing legislation that would give the IRS greater leeway to help find missing children.
As it stands, the IRS can only share tax-return information for limited reasons. The new measure would give law enforcement access to that data in the case of a missing child.
“Information that could help bring an abducted child home is sitting right under our noses, yet we don’t empower law enforcement to use it,” Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.), one of the bill’s sponsors, said in a statement.
Reps. Patrick Tiberi (R-Ohio), the chairman of the House Ways and Means subcommittee that deals with taxes, Joe Courtney (D-Conn.) and Erik Paulsen (R-Minn.) are also backers of the House measure.
The bill comes several months after a couple of bills on the topic were introduced in the Senate: one from Sens. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) and Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), the other from Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and John Cornyn (R-Texas).
Klobuchar attended a Wednesday event with House lawmakers to announce their new bill.
According to a release on that measure, the Treasury Department found in a limited sample that about 1 out of 3 children abducted by a parent had their Social Security number used in a tax return, which often could have told law enforcement the child’s new address.
In all, 200,000 or so children a year are abducted by a family member.
VERNON, CT – Congressman Joe Courtney today announced that he donated $1,000 in political contributions he received from Congressman Anthony Weiner in 2007 to eastern Connecticut charities. Courtney donated the contributions to Hockanum Valley Community Council and St. Vincent de Paul Place.
From the Journal Inquirer:
Courtney, Farm Bureau seek new definition of ‘rural’ to aid state farms
May 30, 2011
The U.S. Department of Agriculture offers millions of dollars in loans and grants to rural communities to support businesses and farms.
But some communities — including many in Connecticut — may miss out because of unclear standards of what constitues “rural.”
Henry Talmage, executive director of the Connecticut Farm Bureau in Windsor, says The USDA’s existing guidelines can be overly restrictive, or as he puts it, an “iron gate.”
Some grants and loans are available to communities with a population of up to 10,000, others to those with populations of up to 20,000, and still others to communities of up to 50,000, Talmage says.
And the cutoff points are so rigid, he says, “if you’re one (resident) over, you’re ineligible.”
Because eastern Connecticut in particular is made up of many communities that are highly rural but exceed the USDA threshold, it’s been difficult to win aid for those towns.
“I’ve seen situations in which a farm has land on two sides of a road, and one side qualified while the other side didn’t,” he says.
So the farm bureau is working with U.S. Rep. Joseph D. Courtney, D-2nd District, to write a more flexible definition of rural into the next congressional Farm Bill. They are looking for a definition broad enough to apply to rural areas in wide open spaces in the West and to the more compact rural areas like those in Connecticut.
There are literally “millions of dollars at stake that can either make or break developments in rural Connecticut,” Talmadge says.
Although the next Farm Bill won’t be voted on until 2012, Courtney, who sits on the House Agriculture Committee, says the groundwork is being laid for changes.
“We want to see a system based on the merit of a particular program and not solely on population estimates,” he says. That would be more in line with the USDA grant and loan program’s goal of promoting deserving rural and agricultural developments, Courtney says.
The USDA’s rural development financial programs support “essential public facilities and services,” such as water and sewer systems, housing, health clinics, emergency service facilities, and electric and telephone service, Courtney says. They promote economic development by supporting loans to businesses through banks, credit unions, and community-managed lending pools.
They also offer technical assistance and information to help farmers and cooperatives get started and improve the effectiveness of their operations.
In addition, they provide technical assistance to help rural communities undertake community empowerment programs through a $115 billion portfolio of loans.
Courtney’s work on the standards goes back to 2009. At that time, Congress passed, and President Obama signed, an amendment to that year’s Farm Bill that that would have dealyed the then-new policy that would have restricted towns in Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts from applying for funding.
The moratorium temporarily stopped a policy change proposed by the USDA that would have made unincorporated “villages” located within larger communities ineligible for Rural Development funds. That “would have had a significant impact in eastern Connecticut,” Courtney says.
Two key projects that had been in development for years — a health center in Windham and a Vernon-Bolton water infrastructure improvement project — could have lost promised funding under the new interpretation, he says.
The USDA has dropped the proposed restrictive policy. But Courtney says inserting a more workable definition of rural into the upcoming Farm Bill is necessary to make sure that funding keeps flowing into the state’s rural areas.
“It’s a new effort every year,” he says of the movement to build a better system of qualifying for USDA loans and grants.
From The Bulletin:
Courtney, students talk about gas prices
May 28, 2011
Norwich, Conn. — Sarah Oatley’s gumption drew applause from her classmates and a visit from a congressman.
The Norwich Technical High School senior’s phone call to the office of U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, earlier this year — bursting with solutions to high gas prices — brought Courtney to the school Friday to meet Oatley and talk to economics students about his ideas to rein in gas prices.
“I was so surprised he was coming just to thank me for calling and to listen to our ideas on the subject,” Oatley, of Baltic, said. “I was kind of surprised I called, but once I started talking it felt natural.”
Oatley’s 10- to 15-minute conversation with one of Courtney’s representatives left her class in awe.
“She’s normally very reserved,” economics teacher Michael Gaffney said. “But she was so persistent with her solutions to the whole problem, and she really stood her ground. The class cheered.”
Courtney greeted Oatley, calling her an all-star, and a handful of other students in Norwich Tech’s lobby before speaking to dozens more about gas prices and the importance of a technical high school education.
“Sarah made a very intelligent call,” Courtney said. “I was so impressed. She really did her homework. This is such a huge issue in Washington. When the oil delivery guy comes to your house, it’s scary. I tip my hat to Sarah and her classmates. And I wanted to say, ‘thank you.’ ”
Oatley and students in Norwich Tech’s three economics classes believe commodity speculators are driving up oil and gas prices. Limiting the speculators and limiting what they can purchase are possible solutions.
“It’s all about greed,” senior Michael Edwards, of Bozrah, said. “Something needs to be done about them. I carpool to school to save money on gas. My parents were spending $100 a week on gas. It’s too much.”
But Edwards couldn’t give enough praise to Oatley.
“When Sarah gets an opinion in her head, it sticks,” Edwards said. “She’s very strong-willed.”
Courtney told the students that energy production is expanding with new oil fields in North Dakota and the discovery of natural gas in Pennsylvania. He also said the skills technical high school students learn are the future.
“I’m such a fan of the technical school program,” he said. “They are huge assets for Connecticut, and the students’ focus is going to address Connecticut’s future workforce needs.”
Besides solutions to the oil and gas prices, Courtney also left with lunch — homemade quiche from the Norwich Tech culinary students — and an addition to his wardrobe — a school baseball cap.
“It’s awesome that the congressman paid us a visit,” senior Shane Wawrzynowicz said. “We have a better understanding of what’s happening. It’s amazing that one 10-minute phone call can make a difference. People need to know that.”
From the New London Day:
Route 11 project back from the dead
Hartford – With $4.4 million in federal funds as his smelling salts, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said Monday that he is reviving the long-stalled Route 11 extension project that some saw as all but dead.
“This is a system that I ultimately believe needs to be built out,” Malloy said during a news conference in the state Capitol, joined by U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, state Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Daniel Esty and James Redeker, acting commissioner of the state Department of Transportation. Also present was Amy Jackson-Grove, division administrator for the Federal Highway Administration.
Malloy said the federal dollars and $600,000 of matching state funds – $5 million altogether – will finance several studies for the Route 11 extension that the governor insisted are necessary. A previous round of environmental studies that was cut short must be completed before new engineering and funding analysis studies are conducted.
The studies are to begin this summer and will require two and a half years to finish, Malloy said. Another consultant will examine options for funding the full project, such as the installation of temporary toll booths.
The governor said it is too early to gauge the full cost of completing Route 11, but he anticipates a big price tag: “This is not going to be an inexpensive project.”
An earlier estimate reported by The Day in 2007 put the cost at between $843 million and $924 million in 2013 dollars.
“For too long we have failed to properly invest in our infrastructure in Connecticut, and it’s time that we do invest in our infrastructure,” Malloy said.
Route 11 has been only partially complete since 1972, when the state ran out of money to finish it. The highway abruptly ends in Salem and detours traffic to Route 85 via Route 82, both narrow two-lane roads. Local and state officials view the current situation as potentially hazardous.
A 2007 study on the Route 11 project identified seven fatalities and more than 1,400 motor vehicle accidents on Route 85 since 1999.
The project would extend the road by 8.5 miles so that Route 11 would connect with Interstate 95 in Waterford. It would also refurbish the interchange at the intersection of interstates 95 and 395.
Plans to extend Route 11 have been discussed since the 1970s. State Rep. Ed Jutila, D-East Lyme, a Route 11 supporter, recalls working on an early environmental study for the highway extension back in 1980, when he was a young legislative assistant for Richard F. Schneller, a former state Senate majority leader.
The project was revived in 1997 and received support from governors John Rowland and M. Jodi Rell, as well as former U.S. congressman Rob Simmons.
In 2004, the federal DOT named the extension one of six projects in the country on a “fast track,” but the momentum later petered out.
The project was shelved in 2009 by then-state DOT Commissioner Joseph Marie because of lack of funding. At the time, the department estimated it had spent nearly $5 million since 1997 on Route 11 consultants – almost all of it on environmental studies.
Monday, Jutila applauded Malloy and Courtney for the renewed commitment to finishing Route 11.
“I think it’s a major, positive step forward,” Jutila said. “It’s certainly a lot better place that we’re in now than we were a year ago when the project looked dead.”
Jutila is a sponsor of a bill pending in the General Assembly that would raise money to complete Route 11 by authorizing the DOT to place tolls on new highways. But some critics doubt whether the toll booths could collect enough money if motorists chose to then avoid the highway.
A separate but related initiative is the Route 11 “greenway,” a proposed bike and pedestrian path that would run on either side of the extended highway.
Dan Steward, chairman of the Route 11 Greenway Authority Commission and Waterford’s first selectman, said Monday that his group hasn’t met for about a year and is awaiting further direction from the state.
Salem First Selectman Kevin Lyden was glad to hear Monday that the Route 11 project is alive once again. He said the extension would reduce traffic on Route 85, which is overused yet must function as the region’s emergency evacuation route.
And, from the New London Day’s editorial page:
EDITORIAL: Route 11 – Malloy gets it
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, have worked well together in resurrecting a Route 11 completion plan that even local officials were close to giving up on. A few weeks ago the regional council of governments, made up of local elected officials, almost left the proposal off its transportation priority list, fearing it would never have sufficient political support. On Monday Gov. Malloy announced the commencement of planning studies that could have the project ready for construction within three years.
That’s an impressive turnaround and a testament to the governor’s personal attention to the project.
The state will pay for additional environmental and design studies using $4.4 million in federal highway funding that Rep. Courtney, following on the work of his predecessors, had fought for but which could not be tapped without a clear state commitment. State contributions will bring the total to $5 million.
We’re skeptical that so much additional study is necessary. While the state has to update prior environmental assessments, go into greater design detail and develop a financing strategy, the goal must be to build upon work already accomplished, not waste time or money redoing prior studies.
Most important, however, this governor recognizes the value of building 8.3 miles of new highway that will take Route 11 from where it ends in Salem and tie it in to an interchange with interstates 95 and 395. His predecessor, Gov. M. Jodi Rell, officially supported the project but never put the full weight of her administration behind it. In 2009, the state Department of Transportation effectively abandoned it as unfunded.
Significant economic benefits would result from a safe, easy Route 11 link between the Hartford area and southeastern Connecticut. With only one exit, the new artery would not cause the development sprawl that the federal Environmental Protection Agency typically fears with new highway construction. In fact, its planned “greenway” of undeveloped open space running adjacent to the extended Route 11 will block the suburban growth that might occur in the highway’s absence.
Paying for this environmentally sensitive project will be expensive, perhaps nearing $1 billion, using federal and state funds. A toll could supplement the cost, though probably not cover it. We suspect most drivers would be willing to pay a reasonable toll to avoid the slower, more congested and dangerous Route 85.
Gov. Malloy realizes large investments in transportation infrastructure are necessary for the state’s long-term economic security.
This is the governor who can finally finish Route 11.
From Roll Call:
OP-ED: Joint Strike Fighter Alternate Engine Is Redundant, Expensive
By Rep. Joe Courtney
Special to Roll Call
May 20, 2011
After more than a decade of back-and-forth and more than $3 billion in unnecessary spending, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter alternate engine officially breathed its final breath this year.
An embodiment of wasteful redundancy, the engine did not go down without a fight, dying despite the tireless backing of Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and support from 40 of the 87 freshman Republicans who ran on platforms of eliminating government fat.
Rarely is a policy in Washington as cut and dried — or transcendent of party lines — as the alternate engine. Across the past two administrations, opposition to this unneeded engine was a rare, continuous common thread. Under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, Defense Secretary Robert Gates quickly and frequently lobbed veto threats at legislation that included funding for the F136 alternate engine. The rationale was simple: The engine’s cost was exorbitant and the engine they had (the F135) easily met the Pentagon’s requirements.
The forced pursuit of a second engine only threatened to further hamstring the Pentagon as they sought smart ways to rein in spending.
Supporters of the second engine argue that competition in the F-35 engine system is needed to keep costs down and hedge against potential problems with the F135. Competition is one thing; unneeded redundancy in a time of fiscal limitations is another. In fact, every U.S. fighter engine program during the past 50 years, except for the F-16, has been sole-source. More than 14,000 sole-source engines produced by GE have been purchased and performed exceptionally for our Blackhawk helicopter fleet. Double-source engines are exceedingly rare.
Yet, three months after a clear-cut and bipartisan vote of 233-198 in the House to end the program and a month after the Pentagon’s formal cancellation of the engine, the House Armed Services Committee has attempted to breathe stale new life into the debate. I was one of just five committee members to vote against an amendment allowing GE and Rolls-Royce to continue self-funded development work on their engine. Although no taxpayer funding would be specifically allocated to the program in fiscal 2012 under the committee bill, GE would enjoy continued access to government equipment, facilities and personnel.
The committee’s action must not be misconstrued as a new endorsement of the program. It has been rejected repeatedly by the president, the Pentagon, the House and the Senate. The debate is done, and the reason is clear. In addition to being staggeringly wasteful, the alternate engine program actually creates new obstacles for the Department of Defense and our men and women in uniform.
The chief of naval operations, Adm. Gary Roughead, told CQ Politics in 2009 that the logistics of aircraft carriers made even storing parts for a second engine an impossibility. According to his remarks, having two separate engine programs for the Joint Strike Fighter would require costly duplication in maintenance, training and supply infrastructure. “Space is at a premium,” he said. “You can put me squarely in the one-engine camp.”
Proponents of the alternate engine also argue that a single-source aircraft is a liability. Their argument ignores the fact that today’s military boasts a number of successful single-source aircraft, including the F-18 and F-22. It also ignores the fact that, after a decade of development, the likelihood of a serious design failure is exceedingly small.
I asked the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, directly in February to clarify that point and comment on whether there is any need for the alternate engine. He told the Armed Services Committee: “The first engine will be more than adequate to meet the needs” of the F-35, and added: “If I thought any different, I would be encouraging the second engine. I just categorically can’t see that it will make any difference.”
I applaud Adm. Mullen, Adm. Roughead, Secretary Gates and many others for acknowledging the strategic and financial burden this program created and for advocating its elimination. As we have already seen, some will continue to seek to rehash this fight, perhaps in perpetuity.
Today, our nation faces important fiscal choices. Those who demand we address these challenges must also accept the responsibility to make the tough and smart choices in our defense budget. With clear bipartisan opposition in the House and Senate to the extra engine, senior military leaders firmly on record in support of its elimination, and with our military actively engaged in three conflicts around the globe, it is time to end definitively this fruitless pursuit and move on from this decade-long debate to more pressing defense budget issues.
Rep. Joe Courtney (D-Conn.) has been a member of the House Armed Services Committee since first becoming a Member of Congress in 2007. The main engine for the F-35 is assembled at a Pratt & Whitney plant in East Hartford.
From the Mansfield Patch:
Joe Courtney Pays Visit to Mansfield Senior Center
May 18, 2011
Democratic U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney paid a visit to the Mansfield Senior Center on Tuesday, speaking briefly about the Republican budget proposal for the 2012 fiscal year, before fielding questions from residents.
The congressman spoke out against the GOP Budget Resolution, which he said would replace Medicare with a voucher program.
“From my perspective this [proposal] is really kind of eroding the … genius of the Medicare program,” said Courtney, adding that the Republican plan would force seniors’ out-of-pocket expenses for Medicare to nearly double in the first year.
“The public opinion polls are really pretty strongly against this. …I definitely will never support that radical of an overhaul,” said Courtney.
“I think that the Republicans are all about wealth and the preservation of wealth,” resident Ida Millman told Courtney. “…I see the Democratic Party as being more concerned with mutual community support.”
In answering questions on Medicaid, Courtney said that in many respects, the Republicans proposal is worse than that for Medicare. “To say you’re going to cut the federal government’s contribution by a third in the name of giving them flexibility, thanks but no thanks,” said Courtney. “That is a loser proposition for every governor and every state legislature and certainly every health care provider that depends on Medicaid.”
On the topic of Social Security, Courtney said that Republicans have proposed that the system be held to a standard of a 75-year solvency, which means that trustees must use a 75-year feasibility projection under the plan. “It is a ridiculous standard to apply to a retirement program,” said Courtney.
“… In my opinion we can figure out a way to balance the books in this country without going to, in really my opinion, fundamental social contract programs that really have made a huge difference in people’s retirement dignity and access to quality health care,” he said. “We’re a great nation. We should be able to figure out a way to do that more efficiently … but not by drastically undercutting people’s guaranteed access to benefits.”
Resident Ed Sicard said that he appreciated Courtney’s visit.
“I thought this was very informative,” he said.
“I thought so too,” said resident Cynthia Johnson. “Joe’s good. He’s a good guy.”
Courtney’s visit to the senior center coincided with Older Americans Month, a time to recognize seniors who have made contributions to society.
From The Bulletin:
Lebanon business group hears about benefits of exporting
May 17, 2011
Lebanon, Conn. — There are hidden gems in the economy of Eastern Connecticut that federal leaders would like to reveal to the world.
U.S. Rep Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, and Anne S. Evans, director of the U.S. Department of Commerce U.S. Commercial Service for Connecticut, met with the Lebanon Connecticut Business Association on Tuesday to discuss how increasing exports and tourism will benefit the state and national economy.
“We have a lot of really strong, small niche manufacturers,” Courtney said. “We are still known for the quality of our products, and with the value of the dollar where it is, we can compete very successfully on the global market.”
Courtney and Evans recently organized two trips to help boost the local economy. One brought Chinese tourism leaders to southeastern Connecticut to visit Mohegan Sun, Mystic Seaport and other area attractions. The other took more than 20 Connecticut businesses to England to try to sell their products. Evans said there are already several companies in contract negotiations with companies such as Rolls-Royce.
In past years, Evans and Courtney also have organized trips to Brussels and Israel, all of which resulted in contracts for Connecticut companies to export services.
“Until you go out there and tell them, they’re not going to know we’re here to sell our products to them,” Courtney said.
Evans said although exports are not a central part of the Lebanon business climate, having other Connecticut businesses improve their overseas sales will help the local economy.
“Every time a company gets more sales there are many ways it helps other businesses,” Evans said. “They do more business with other local companies.”
Exports also create jobs, Courtney said. Driving down unemployment means less reliance on government assistance and more disposable income into the economy, he said.
Ellen Macauley, a business owner in town and chairman of the Economic Development Commission, said the visit was important for local businesses.
“It’s important to hear from them,” Macauley said. “But it’s also important that our leaders hear from us.”