Rep. Kaptur to Pentagon: Don’t forget Ohio workers when making cuts

“We don’t look like Northern Virginia, but we have the right to compete.”

That was the message Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) delivered this week to Pentagon acquisition executive Ashton Carter about her state vying for military contracts.

Kaptur delivered an impassioned plea to Carter as Ohio prepares to take another economic hit when two Defense Department programs that bring jobs to her state are shuttered.

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The Marine Corps and the Pentagon plan to terminate the General Dynamics-built Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV) program, which has a manufacturing plant in Lima, Ohio. Defense officials have decided finishing the program would be too expensive.

Cost also is a main driver of the Pentagon’s opposition to a program created by Congress to develop an alternate engine for the F-35 fighter fleet. GE and Rolls-Royce have a plant in southwest Ohio.

Because work on the alternate engine is done in Ohio, also the home state of GOP House Speaker John Boehner, the program became a political hot potato earlier this year when the House voted to kill funding in one version of a government-funding bill.

Boehner did not vote on an amendment to strip the program’s funding, and he did not push his caucus to keep the effort alive.

Kaptur said the two program terminations will cost Ohio “thousands” of jobs.

During a Wednesday hearing, she told Carter Pentagon officials must be “somewhat conscious” the decisions they make affect employment around the country.

At one point, she asked Carter: “How can Cleveland, Buffalo and Detroit compete” with areas like Northern Virginia — which is dotted with defense firms' headquarters and Washington operations hubs — and other places that receive a lot of defense work?”

Those Ohio, New York and Michigan cities once were among the mightiest manufacturing hubs in America, but in recent years have fallen on hard times epitomized by high unemployment.

Ohio’s unemployment rate peaked at 10.5 percent in March 2010, according to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.

The Ohio department reported April 15 that 526,000 people were unemployed in March, making the state’s unemployment rate 8.9 percent. That was down from 9.2 percent in February.

Ohio officials “have to figure out ways to compete for DoD contracts,” Kaptur said, inviting Carter to travel to the Buckeye State for meetings with local leaders.

For his part, Carter assured Kaptur that all is not lost for Ohio’s role on defense contracts.

The Marines, for instance, already have started a follow-on program to the scuttled EFV project.

Some of the components planned for that vehicle will likely be used on its replacement, meaning Ohio companies could have a role on the new program, Carter said.