The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


February 20, 2013

Dems, GOP converge in defense cut hypocrisy


When it comes to the Cold War-era M1 Abrams tanks that General Dynamics Corp. upgrades in Lima, Ohio, Jordan swaps penny pinching for hometown pride, jointly signing letters to defense officials backing project funding and inviting other lawmakers to take rides in the tanks.

"The conundrum we have is that we don't need the tanks," U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno told the House Appropriations Committee last March.

The Army and Marine Corps have an inventory of about 6,000 Abrams tanks, built in anticipation of war against the then- Soviet Union, said James Hasik, a defense industry consultant in Austin, Texas. The Army used about 1,000 in the Iraq war and probably only needs about 2,000, he said.

The Army is seeking to stop production at Lima's Joint Systems Manufacturing Center, where old tanks are gutted and rebuilt with new technology, for three years beginning in 2015, and then redesign the tank entirely. Army Secretary John McHugh, joining Odierno at the House panel last March, said it would cost $600 million to close the plant and later reopen it, versus as much as $3 billion to keep it open continuously.

In an interview, Jordan challenged the Army's position: "You're going to lose a skilled workforce and have the cost associated with shutting down a facility and then reopening it? Is that really the smartest way to go about making sure our Army is best-equipped and the No. 1 fighting force in the world? I disagree."

Jordan said taxpayers will be hurt if an already shrunken workforce is asked to stop production. Countering the Army's assessment, General Dynamics produced its own analysis almost two years ago that found it would cost $1.6 billion to restart the plant, versus $1.3 billion to keep a production line working on 70 tanks a year.

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