Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is fuming over a report that the Pentagon may be on the verge of forcing a Kentucky firm that makes jackets for the Air Force to shut down by shifting its work to federal prisons.
With unemployment in Kentucky still above 9 percent, McConnell said in a statement Thursday that “now is not the time for this administration to start looking for ways to pay convicts to take law-abiding, taxpaying Kentuckians’ jobs.”
“There are plenty of things prisoners can do to improve our communities that don’t involve putting a company that has made Air Force jackets for the past 50 years out of business,” McConnell added.
According to the Louisville Courier-Journal
, the Ashland Sales and Service company currently has a five-year, $20 million defense contract that keeps 100 people employed making about 70,000 jackets a year for Air Force personnel. The president even wears a Kentucky-made jacket while flying aboard Air Force One.
The company has been awarded the contract for the jackets repeatedly over the past 50 years. But now that long relationship is in jeopardy as the Pentagon searches for ways to trim billions more from its budget over the next 10 years.
And by law, the Pentagon must purchase from the Federal Prison Industries system if a prisoner-made item is comparable to what can be produced by a private company.
The Courier-Journal reported Friday that a final decision has not been mad. But that hasn’t stopped Ashland Sales President Michael Mansh from enlisting the help of the state’s Republican senators, McConnell and Rand Paul, in hopes of using their persuasive powers to keep the Air Force supplied with Kentucky-made jackets.
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