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Donnelly touts defense contractors in city visit

Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., warned Monday that congressional budget cuts could shortchange the U.S. military and its suppliers - as well as America's security.

"We don't want to go to the point where it endangers the companies that have enabled us to protect our nation and to keep our nation going forward," Donnelly, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told news media after a tour of ITT Exelis in Fort Wayne.

The freshman senator from Granger said ongoing federal budget reductions known as sequestration should be "in spending across much of the federal spectrum" and "just not focused on defense and on (social) service programs. ... It's something we have to fix and we have to do in a better way."

Sequestration has trimmed $37 billion from Pentagon spending in fiscal 2013 and will chop nearly $53 billion more in fiscal 2014 under the Budget Control Act.

His Monday morning visit was Donnelly's first to ITT Exelis, which manufactures military communications equipment and weather satellite parts at plants along Cook Road west of Lima Road. The stop kicked off a three-day "Serving Those Who Serve" tour of Indiana businesses, a Purdue University rocket laboratory and the Air National Guard base in Terre Haute.

Donnelly said U.S troops "have come home safe because of the products that have been built" by ITT Exelis.

Sequestration is delaying the awards of military contracts but has not resulted in layoffs at the local operation, which employs 1,165 people, a company official said.

"Some of our products are really determined on how big that (military) force structure is going to be and how quickly they are going to field those products," Jennifer Schoonover, vice president and general manager of communications solutions, said in an interview. "It makes a big difference whether they are going to field a certain number of brigade combat teams."

For more on this story, see Tuesday's print edition of The Journal Gazette or go to www.journalgazette.net after 3 a.m. Tuesday.

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