Army will brief Congress on tank needs by Dec. 15
The Lima (Ohio) News
LIMA, Ohio — The Abrams battle tank and the local facility that builds them have withstood multiple rounds of D.C. cuts, decisions and deadlines.
The Abrams and Joint Systems Manufacturing Center have another one on the horizon. The Army has set itself a Dec. 15 deadline to brief Congress on the results of a comprehensive study of its ground vehicle industrial base that it began in 2012, according to a draft document obtained by Defense News, its sister publication Army Times has reported.
The Army contracted with consulting firm AT Kearney to do the study early last year, and military service leaders said they hope it will shed more light on which defense companies are most at risk and, more importantly, which key second- and third-tier suppliers must be supported to keep their lines running during the coming vehicle-procurement lull.
The 18-page July document, titled “M1 Abrams Tank Upgrade and Bradley Fighting Vehicle Industrial Base Study Preliminary Findings,” says that when it comes to heavy manufacturing capacity, the U.S. defense sector “exceeds known demand for current programs and for planned future programs.”
U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Urbana, said he’s keeping his eye open for information about the briefing, but remains supportive of the Abrams and will continue to support funding to keep the facility warm.
“We’re watching it closely,” Jordan said. “We understand the United States Army is going to have tanks. Tanks are important. The place they make them is right here, and they do a good job at it. In the long run, it’s cost-effective to make sure this place continues to build tanks the Army is going to use, going to need.”
The Joint Systems Manufacturing Center, the government-owned facility where General Dynamics manufactures the Abrams tank, received $181 million more than the Army requested in fiscal 2013, which the military is using to buy more tanks — vehicles the Army has repeatedly said it doesn’t want or need.
The JSMC rebuilds and upgrades the tanks. Task Force L.I.M.A., chaired by Mayor David Berger, advocates for the Abrams and the JSMC. The task force and a large bipartisan coalition in Congress have argued that funding minimal production secures the industrial base as a matter of national security for a time in a few years when production of a new tank will ramp up.
The task force also argues that while the Army says there is no need for upgraded tanks, the National Guard and Army Reserve do need the equipment.
Berger said he understands the pressure of sequestration.
“With sequestration remaining in place, I am certain that the pressure on the Army for additional budgetary cuts is growing severely. So I would not expect the Army to have changed its mind about needing to temporarily cease tank manufacturing,” Berger said. “I remain hopeful though that the large bipartisan coalition in the Congress that values the supply chain and industrial base will continue some level of manufacturing to keep the JSMC open.”
Overall, the Pentagon will have to gut its budget by about $20 billion in fiscal 2014 if the sequestration cuts are unchanged, the Army Times reported. Army officials have signaled that many ground combat systems could see cuts or be delayed.