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Local Business Fears Defense Cuts To Navy

FLEET WEEKLONGMEADOW,Mass (WGGB) — Fleet week in New York is the largest gathering of United States Naval ships in the country each year, and it’s organized by Mike Darby from this Longmeadow office.

“We typically take care of 10-15 ships sometimes in three different locations throughout the City of New York,” Darby said.

That includes everything from security to tug boats to pilots to food and fuel. Darby’s staff of six at MLS-USA makes the same arrangements year round for any Navy ships that needs to dock anywhere in North and South America, but that all could be in jeopardy. As part of Defense Department cuts, the Navy is facing major shortfalls. Congress hasn’t voted on a new Navy budget in a couple years, so commanders have no flexibility in allocating money. That’s a big reason why major cuts could come in march through sequestration.

“The Navy has made it quite clear that they are going to cancel all of their port visits, all of their deployments to Central and South America,” Darby said.

That’s about 400 or 500 port calls every year for MLS USA. It could cost them about 80% of their business.
Training and maintenance would be the first Navy line items to go. While Darby knows port visits are critical for community relations and recruiting, he knows they aren’t critical to national security. He’s telling is staff to prepare for major change.

“Come the first of March, I mean our business could pretty much just die off, so it’s very, very frustrating not knowing what’s going on,” he said.

The initial cuts could go into effect March First if Congress can’t approve a new budget beforehand.
MLS USA also has contracts with the British Royal Navy and Canadian Navy for the same logistical purposes.
They’re hopeful those militaries could fill in any major holes.

About 200 people were laid off by Defense Department manufacturer ITT Exelis Wednesday in West Springfield.

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