WASHINGTON – A large defense contract that could provide up to 500 jobs in Pittsfield is included in a spending bill that Congress is expected to vote on tomorrow, but a separate contract that could mean 400 jobs in Lynn is still in limbo.
The legislation, which is part of a temporary budget bill that the House and Senate will vote on tomorrow, includes a provision that allows the Navy to award 10 new Navy coastal ships. The combat ships would be built by a consortium including General Dynamics, which said it would add 500 jobs to an electronics plant in Pittsfield if the project is approved. The Pentagon has backed the move to increase the order of new ships from 10 to 20.
But the bill does not include any specific provision for another major defense contract with impacts on Massachusetts – a backup engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
That project, which would be built by General Electric and would result in 400 jobs in Lynn, has been criticized by taxpayer watchdogs for several years as a waste of defense dollars. The Pentagon has said it needs only one engine for the new fighter, and the Obama administration opposes the project.
Funding for the jet engine will run out Thursday, and GE officials had been desperately trying to get $450 million authorized in a stopgap budget bill.
A spokesman for GE warned that the decision to not specifically include the project in the temporary budget bill might not mean the end of the project. The spokesman, Rick Kennedy, said it could come down to an interpretation of the law by the Office of Management and Budget.
Because the temporary budget bill continues funding at fiscal 2010 levels -- when the alternate engine was funded -- GE officials assume the project will continue to be funded.
The bill the House and Senate plan to vote on tomorrow would keep government running at previous levels through March 4.
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Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.