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Officials applaud Senate panel’s vote on Growler production

ST. LOUIS – The Senate Appropriations Committee has approved the funding needed for Boeing Co.’s Growler aircraft production line to remain open for another year and the potential saving of 3,000 jobs that were going to be eliminated once the line shut down, elected officials said today at Boeing Defense, Space & Security in St. Louis.

As chairman of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, said he included $1.2 billion to purchase 12 EA-18G Growler combat planes made in St. Louis and $100 million to support the current production line in the defense subcommittee’s fiscal year 2015 appropriations bill that was approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee yesterday. The bill now goes before the full Senate for approval.

“This funding will support jobs in the region and invest in the future defense of our nation,” Durbin said. “Continued funding for the Growler production line will provide our military leaders with the aircraft they need to perform critical attack missions for the Navy. Back home, the funding for the Growler line, which has been in jeopardy, preserves the heart of the St. Louis defense industrial base and its enormous impact on the regional economy. This funding will ensure that the top-notch, highly skilled workers on the Growler production line will remain on the job through 2017.”

Among those present were U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., and U.S. Rep. Bill Enyart, D-Belleville.

“This is a big victory for Southern Illinois,” said Enyart. “Senator Durbin and I have worked long and hard to secure funding for these Growlers through both the House and Senate appropriation bills. These Growlers mean not only the security of our nation, but the security of jobs at Boeing’s St. Louis facility which employs 2,000 Illinoisans – many of whom call Southern Illinois home. I encourage my colleagues in the Senate to pass this bill.”

Separately, U. S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, encouraged the Senate to follow through to the end.

“I applaud the Senate for taking the House’s lead to fund the purchase of an additional 12 Growlers, which is critical to thousands of manufacturing jobs in St. Louis and the Metro East. However, it’s important to remember that this language has simply passed committee, not the full Senate. In fact, while the House has already approved seven appropriation bills, the Senate has, to date, failed to pass a single one. So I would encourage the Senate to move quickly to get this appropriations bill passed so we can actually save these jobs and get the planes built.”

The Navy is replacing its aging, carrier-based EA-6B electronic attack aircraft with modern EA-18 Growlers, which share a common airframe with the Super Hornet and are also produced in St. Louis. Growlers combat aircraft that jam IEDs, enemy radars and surface to air missile defenses. The Department of the Navy has identified a need for up to twenty-two additional EA-18G Growlers as part of its unfunded priorities list.

Earlier this year, the St. Louis production line for the Growler was scheduled to shut down after 2016, unless Boeing was able to find buyers for the plane, either from the U.S. military or internationally. The proposed funding will keep the production line strong into 2017. The funding would save 13,500 direct and indirect jobs in suppliers in both Missouri and Illinois. The annual economic impact from those suppliers is $640 million in Missouri and $30 million in Illinois. Boeing Defense, Space & Security is a unit of Chicago-based Boeing Co. that employs 15,110 full-time employees, including 2,000 from Illinois.

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