LIMA — In the middle of a six-day trip to the Middle East, U.S. Sen. Rob Portman met with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak and pitched the unique capabilities of the Joint Systems Manufacturing Center.The JSMC makes the Abrams tank and also does work for other countries, including for Israel's Merkava main battle tank. The center is beginning production on the new Namer combat vehicle.Portman, R-Ohio, talking with reporters Monday from the United Arab Emirates on the last day of his trip, said he and Barak discussed current and planned U.S. security partnership programs between the two countries and the role the U.S. defense industrial base has in supplying Israel with necessary equipment.“I'm exited about their decision to use the plant,” Portman said. “I encouraged him to provide us more opportunities. He indicated he is well aware of the plant and its expertise.”Task Force L.I.M.A., chaired by Lima Mayor David Berger, and multiple elected officials are attempting to fund continued Abrams upgrades and not temporarily halt tank work. The Senate was expected to take up the National Defense Authorization Act later this summer. Authorization to fund minimal tank work is included in the House version of the bill and the bill passed by the Senate Armed Services Committee.The White House has objected to the money inserted in the bill with a memo from President Barack Obama's Office of Management and Budget. The administration wants to mothball the facility until the new generation of the Abrams is ready to be produced.“I think that's a huge mistake for the taxpayer. It would be much more expensive than continuing the modernization effort,” Portman said.Portman, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and the ranking member on the Emerging Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee, said he has financial and national security concerns about not keeping the Abrams line open minimally.“The alternative is to shut down the line and restart the line, which would be incredibly expensive,” Portman said.The Pentagon and supporters of the JSMC differ on the cost to shutter and restart the line.During his trip, Portman met with soldiers in Afghanistan, and in Israel viewed the so-called “Iron Dome” system, an air defense system that uses interceptor missiles to defend against short-range rocket and artillery attacks. The United States now helps pay for and make the systems.
Portman talks up JSMC in Israel