Harper Visits District

Mississippi's third district congressman, Gregg Harper, spent Tuesday in Meridian, touring business and health care facilities, as well as meeting with local leaders.

The Lockheed Martin plant in Marion is the site that could be affected by recommendations made by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates....to cancel future production of the F-22 Raptor jet fighter due to its high cost.

The tail section of the F-22 is built in Lauderdale County. But Harper said it is not a done deal.

"It's not over yet," said Harper. "Obviously we're going to do our part where we can to stand up for this program, which has been a very good success."

Harper said before any such cuts can be put in place they must first be approved by Congress.

Lockheed officials say 14 employees at the Marion facility work on that aircraft. With an obligation to build at least 50 more of the jets, they say if the cuts are approved, the local plant will not be affected immediately. In fact, they say construction of the remaining 51 F-22 jets will take at least one year.

With other proposals for developments still being discussed in Washington, Lockheed officials say it is too early to say what layoffs, if any, will take place.

"I'm afraid that this administration does have plans to cut defense spending in a number of areas, whether it's canceling the remaining ones on the F-22. They're showing a reduction in missile defense programs of $1.4 billion," Harper said. "So, there are a lot of things important for our national security that we need to rethink."

Congress is expected to consider the proposed cuts when it convenes in two weeks.

Later, Harper met with elected officials at the county courthouse. He said he wanted to let them know what's happening in Washington and get their insight into business and political issues.

"He was a very very strong voice in support of the Hawkins Crossing interchange as a number one project out of stimulus funding for the state of Mississippi, and I personally appreciate his thumb on the scale for it," said Meridian Mayor John Robert Smith.

Smith said Harper has demonstrated sincere interest in staying in touch with the people he represents.


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