Lockheed Martin had stated in the past that the cancellation of the VH-71 Presidential Transport Helicopter would lead to job cuts at its Owego, NY facility. On Tuesday they announced that due to the Navy's termination of the contract to modify the European made aircraft that another six hundred workers would lose their jobs. The company had already cut two hundred employees at their upstate New York location but not all of these were related to the helicopter program.
Over the last year almost twenty-five percent of the work force has disappeared although almost eight hundred of those thousand jobs went in the last three months with the Obama Administration's decision to cancel the expensive new aircraft. The VH-71 had seen major schedule and cost growth and in many ways became a poster child for defense acquisition problems. Many of the issues the program faced had been cause by requirements added after the contract had been let leading to the need for significant modifications to the EH-101 aircraft selected. Now a whole new program has been stood up to figure out what is needed to provide the President with safe and effective transport for the next few decades.
New York Congressmen and some others in both the House and Senate had tried to keep the program alive but failed to. Of all the programs ended by the Obama and Secretary of Defense Gates only the F-22 as manged to stay funded in the current 2010 budget. This decision is being fought by the administration as well as some of the budget hawks in the Senate like John McCain.
The cuts to the workforce may prove highly negative to the upstate New York area as the number of high paying jobs their is limited. Lockheed Martin was filling a void left by IBM, Kodak and other industries that had move on. There is an argument that the defense budget be used in some ways to try and stimulate the failing U.S. economy that is seeing unemployment closing in on double digits. This is not necessarily the best use of that funding but there is a requirement for the aircraft and a possible scaled down program, as proposed by Augusta Westland, might have been able to continue.
If the 2010 budget goes through with the planned Obama restructuring the scene in Owego could become common in other parts of the U.S. as the boom days of the defense budget end.