Tanks for the Vote!


A day before the national election to elect the next president of the United States, Bob King, president of the United Auto Workers, released a letter that he had originally sent to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta on Oct. 4, in which he warns that the Army’s plan to shutter the Abrams tank plant in Lima, Ohio from 2014 to 2017 “places in jeopardy our armor industrial base and would result in the loss of thousands of good paying manufacturing jobs across the United States.”

The letter, appearing in the Lima News in the battleground state of Ohio, says that building an Abrams “includes over 800 large and small critical suppliers around the United States,” and that turning the lights out on the line, even temporarily, “places at risk 1,000 UAW jobs in central Ohio.” He goes on to say that

The Army’s decision to end tank production severely limits the ability of our nation’s manufacturing sector to react to unforeseen military circumstances, undermining our critical ability to provide additional vehicles when the need arises. More importantly, it makes no sense for U.S. taxpayers. Even if the critical armor industrial base could be reconstituted, it is estimated to cost $1.6 billion to mothball the Abrams production line. Further, building tanks until the Army’s planned restart would cost $1 billion. I strongly urge you to reconsider your policy and maintain funding for the Abrams tank.

Members of Congress and the Army have been battling it out over the sustainment and modernization of the M1A2 Abrams tank for the last two budget cycles, but on Sept. 27, TACOM’s Contracting Command awarded General Dynamics Land Systems an eight-year, $395 million contract to conduct research, development and testing in preparation for the tank modernization program set to begin in 2017. The effort seeks to bundle a range of upgrades, improvements and modernization initiatives into one engineering-development effort.

The Pentagon said it can save about $3 billion by freezing work on the Abrams for three years, while Army analysis says it would cost $600 million to $800 million to reopen the production line in 2017. In addition to the General Dynamics-led study, the service has hired consulting firm AT Kearney to study the ground vehicle industrial base to find out which companies are most at risk from the coming reductions in available work.

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Paul McLeary

McLeary covers national security policies at the White House, Pentagon, the Hill, and State Department.
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