LIMA — A proposed mothballing of the Joint Systems Manufacturing Center may be off the table but through inaction on the March 1 sequestration budget cuts, federal leaders may be backing into idling the plant. Contracts have been signed for additional work at the JSMC, but the military is holding back amid the uncertainty of whether those deep cuts will be avoided.
The bottom line, according to officials with Task Force LIMA, is the waiting game is hurting the JSMC and its suppliers.
“Today we really did get a sense of how impactful this period is when no decisions are being made and it could have some really enormous impacts unless some clarity is brought soon. Even though contracts have been approved, the military is now not moving forward on those contracts until they know,” Lima Mayor David Berger said. “That’s beginning to have some collateral kinds of consequences. We know now it’s affecting at least a couple hundred folks here at the plant but in two weeks when all of this is supposed to be finalized in some way, who knows where it’s all going to be. I think there really is a huge kind of uneasiness, anxiety and it’s having impacts.”
Cliff Barber, product manager for General Dynamics Land Systems, said despite the uncertainty he is optimistic the plant will avoid even a temporary shutdown.
“We are currently producing or upgrading some Kingdom of Saudi Arabia tanks that we built here back in the 1990s,” Barber said. “Currently we are in between contracts for our Stryker product, which is a ground combat vehicle. We are in between contracts for that, expecting the next contract to start sometime mid-year.”
Even with work continuing at the JSMC, suppliers across the region and the state are beginning to feel the trickle-down effect.
“This is happening apparently throughout the military and defense establishment,” Berger said. “I think we’re really getting a sense that this could have some enormous consequences unless some clarity comes relatively soon to what the budget circumstances really are.”
Task force members in previous meetings have held back from endorsing plans to lobby members of Congress and military officials at the Pentagon about the plant’s critical role through in-person meetings similar to what was done eight years ago during the 2005 Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission process. On Thursday, task force members said it may again be time to plan just those sort of visits.
“I think what we identified today were a series of folks that are new to the task, people who are in decision-making on the Hill and in the Pentagon. I think we need to engage with them,” Berger said. “It may require rather than as we’ve been relying on getting them here to the plant we may need to go to D.C. for a fly-in where we can try to reach out to everybody once again.”