LIMA — Score another point for Abrams tank work at Joint Systems Manufacturing Center through 2015. But the game isn’t over yet.
The Senate Armed Services Committee has restored $91 million to its National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013, U.S. Sen. Rob Portman announced Thursday. The money is for the advanced procurement of long-lead materials needed to continue Abrams upgrades at the Lima tank plant into 2015. The current Pentagon plan had Joint Systems upgrading Abrams tanks through mid-2014.
The Ohio Republican senator is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and the ranking member on the Emerging Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee. The funding was reinserted during the committee’s mark-up of the Department of Defense Authorization for 2013.
Portman defended the budget addition as a fiscally prudent alternative to temporarily shutting down the Lima plant.
"We must maintain a strong national defense and ensure that our military men and women who put their lives in harm’s way have the resources to defend our freedom," Portman said in a prepared statement. "At the same time, with Washington more than $15 trillion in debt, we need to make sure every dollar is spent wisely."
Portman’s plan next will go before the full Senate, where it is expected to easily pass. Then, possibly as early as July, Senate and House committees will meet to finalize the package that will be sent to President Obama.
Last week, the U.S. House passed its version of the Defense Authorization Act that includes $181 million for the extra work for Joint Systems. U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Urbana, and other Ohio colleagues, including Task Force L.I.M.A. chaired by Lima Mayor David Berger, led a multi-state congressional effort to fund continued Abrams upgrades and prevent the temporary shut-down of tank work. Jordan and 172 other House members wrote to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta last month expressing concern with the Administration’s plan to shutter the combat vehicle industrial base.
The White House has objected to the restoration of funding for Abrams upgrades.
"If the cumulative effects of the bill impede the ability of the Administration to execute the new defense strategy and to properly direct scarce resources, the President’s senior advisors would recommend to the President that he veto the bill," states a recent memo from President Barack Obama’s Office of Management and Budget.
The administration specifically objected to the money for the "unrequested" authorization for "unneeded upgrades" to the M-1A1 tanks, according to the memo.
Portman criticized the "incremental approach taken in the bill," saying it poses a potential risk to the Lima facility.
"As currently drafted, this bill would require Congress to revisit this funding again next year," Portman said. "I remain committed to this very important issue. I will continue to work with the Army, the contractor, and my colleagues to ensure that production rates at Lima are achieved to sustain this facility through fiscal year 2014 and beyond. Continuing minimum production will retain this national capability and be less expensive than mothballing JSMC as the Pentagon proposes."