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Blumenthal: Conn. impact possible in Pentagon cuts

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HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Federal budget cuts known as the sequester could damage Connecticut's significant aerospace industry, U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal said Monday while on a trade trip to France.

Without action by President Barack Obama and Congress, the Pentagon spending cuts will occur on March 1.

"I'm still hopeful the sequester can be avoided," Blumenthal said in a conference call with reporters. "Most certainly, it should be."

The cuts would drain $85 billion from the federal budget over the next seven months. Cuts may be around 13 percent for defense and 9 percent for other programs because lawmakers delayed their impact, requiring savings over a shorter period of time.

Blumenthal, on his first trade trip since he took office in January 2011, was in Toulouse, France, to help boost Connecticut business contracts with Airbus.

He said the sequester would be "very dangerous" to the U.S. and Connecticut economies and national security. The cuts would be felt by jet engine maker Pratt & Whitney, a subsidiary of United Technologies Corp., and Electric Boat, a General Dynamics Corp. subsidiary, he said.

Greg Hayes, chief financial officer of United Technologies Corp., told investor analysts on Feb. 7 that he does not expect the sequester to be stopped. The impact on the aerospace conglomerate's profit will be small, but it will be felt, he said.

"I think the sequester will happen," Hayes said. "I don't think it's going to be as bad as people think, but there will be some impact."

Blumenthal said the trade trip is intended to capitalize on Connecticut's aerospace businesses, with exports for Airbus valued at $5.3 billion.

He could not report a specific contract resulting from the two-day trade trip, he said, "but clearly, the prospects are enormous."

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