ANNISTON, Ala. (Tribune News Service) — People looking for work might find it on tanks and armored vehicles at Anniston Army Depot following a proposal to expand U.S. military presence in Eastern Europe.
One local defense contractor already plans to expand its operations in response to the military’s expansion of operations in recent years to counter Russian aggression. With a White House request Monday to quadruple spending for armored vehicles and equipment to shore up defense in Eastern Europe, the rest of the local defense industry and the depot could see a spike in work orders, one military industry expert says.
Workers at the depot, BAE Systems, General Dynamics Land Systems and other local defense contractors spend their days mainly repairing and upgrading many kinds of armored vehicles. Those include the Abrams tank, the Stryker combat vehicle and self-propelled howitzer combat vehicles.
Nathan Hill, military liaison for the Calhoun County Chamber of Commerce, said he believes the push to use more military vehicles to deter Russia will increase that work for much of the local defense industry.
“It definitely will mean more work for the depot and General Dynamics — especially on the M1 Abrams and the Strykers,” Hill said.
According to a Tuesday press release, the White House plans to request more than $3.4 billion in spending in 2017 to deploy heavy weapons, armored vehicles and other equipment in Eastern Europe for use by the U.S. military and NATO countries. If approved, the request would quadruple last year’s spending on military operations in Eastern Europe.
Boosts in workloads would be welcomed by the depot and local defense contractors, all of whom have cut hundreds of jobs in recent years because of military budget cuts. The depot has about 2,700 workers.
Cynthia Carey, spokeswoman for BAE, said her company plans to reopen its vehicle upgrade and overhaul center in Anniston because of the changing military requirements in Eastern Europe.
“We will be hiring personnel to support it,” Carey said.
Carey did not provide details on when the center would reopen or how many workers would be hired.
BAE closed the facility in 2012 because of the drawdown of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. The facility had 145 employees at the time and was used to upgrade and overhaul the military’s M113 and M88 armored vehicles.
BAE still provides upgrade and overhaul services for other armored vehicles in Anniston. It also manufactures track and suspension components for vehicles, including the M1 Abrams tank.
According to a White House press release, the military began increasing its presence in 2014 in Eastern Europe after Russia invaded Crimea.
“BAE Systems is working to understand the emerging requirements of Eastern Europe and how they might affect us,” Carey said. “We will continue to assess and adjust our resources in response to changing business needs.”
BAE and other local contractors and the Anniston Army Depot might all need to adjust to additional demand starting next year.
Hill said that with more vehicles being moved around and stored in locations in Eastern European countries, the more likely it is that those vehicles will require maintenance and upgrades.
“Equipment is not being used if it’s not deployed and so doesn’t require work,” Hill said. “The more they use the equipment, the better it is for the depot.”
Phillip Trued, chief of staff for the depot, declined to comment on whether the facility would likely receive more work if the military spending increase is approved.
“We cannot speculate regarding future workload, however, the Anniston Army Depot stands ready to support any and all Army requirements” Trued said.
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