Boeing looks to Congress to fund fighters after Navy skips orders

Thu Feb 13, 2014 8:05pm EST
 
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By Andrea Shalal-Esa

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Boeing Co (BA.N: Quote) is mounting a last-ditch campaign to convince U.S. lawmakers to buy more fighter jets and stave off a shutdown of a St. Louis production line after the U.S. Navy failed to fund the jets.

The Navy's fiscal 2015 budget plan omits funding for any extra F/A-18E/F Super Hornets or EA-18G Growlers, according to several sources familiar with the issue. The White House is due to submit its 2015 budget request to Congress on March 4.

While the 2015 budget does not include funding for shutting down the F/A-18 production line in St. Louis after 2016, the Navy plans to add such termination funding to its 2016 budget, said one of the sources, who could not speak publicly.

That spells bad news for Boeing, which needs additional orders from the U.S. Navy to continue producing the fighter planes, according to industry executives and analysts.

Navy officials have said they would like to keep buying Super Hornets and Growlers, but cannot afford to do so given tough budget pressures that have already forced the service to propose eliminating one of 11 U.S. aircraft carriers.

That means Boeing must now appeal to U.S. lawmakers to fund an additional batch of Growlers to keep the line running for one more year while it continues to hunt for foreign sales.

The program has strong support among lawmakers but a dearth of funding for aircraft carriers and other priorities may complicate Boeing's efforts. Many traditional defense hawks have also died or left Congress, and many current lawmakers are more worried about deficits than maintaining defense spending.

Boeing officials declined comment, noting that the fiscal 2015 budget has not been released. But the company is already airing advertisements on a local Washington radio station and its lobbyists are working their connections on Capitol Hill.   Continued...

 
The Boeing logo is seen at their headquarters in Chicago, April 24, 2013. REUTERS/Jim Young