Last updated: August 24. 2013 2:31PM -

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LIMA ó Task Force LIMA is making progress on two fronts in its battle to keep the Abrams tank program running at the Joint Systems Manufacturing Center.

First, the task force on Thursday learned Dayton Defense Coalition is using money provided by the state to develop a statewide organized, assertive approach to seeking defense contracting work for Ohio. Dayton Defense is hiring three consultants, two focused on opportunities for Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, and a third focused on the rest of the state, including the JSMC.

Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Greg Wayt from that firm, CBD Advisors, attended the task force meeting and said the group is just beginning its work. The groupís plan is to inventory defense and aerospace resources and facilities in the state; assess strengths and weaknesses; educate the JobsOhio economic development regional teams; and help development officials work with the Pentagon and Congress, Wayt said.

Task force members had written a white paper advocating for an organized approach and more leadership from the governorís office on seeing economic development opportunities in defense contract work. The group had sent the paper to the governorís office, Ohio economic development officials and the Ohio congressional delegation.

ďI donít know if this is a causal relationship, but itís a terrific response,Ē said Mayor David Berger, the task forceís chair. ďItís what we asked for in the white paper. Itís happening and itís exciting. Weíre looking forward to working with (CBD).Ē

Also, the task force welcomed Brig. Gen. (Ret.) Ed Dyer, now vice president of military programs for Allison Transmissions, in Indianapolis. The company does commercial work, but it has also built transmissions for tanks since World War II. Like the JSMC, it is unique facility for the Army; no other company in the United States does the work.

Dyer was a tanker (an Abrams tank operator) who served 29 years with the Army, including a combat tour of duty during Desert Storm. He was one of the featured speakers at The American Legionís 1st National Security Symposium at the national convention this year in Indianapolis. He has advocated that while the Army may believe it doesnít need any more tanks at the moment, it should keep minimal production running at the JSMC and elsewhere to protect the national industrial base.

Dyer spoke about the issue in an article in the September American Legion Magazine and attracted the attention of the task force, Berger said. Dyer said the Air Force and Navy, with such a dependency on planes and ships, takes a different attitude regarding maintaining the people who build such things.

ďThis isnít something you turn off and on like a light switch. The leadership of the Army has not thought through this, but Iím making progress and we have new advocates. The Navy and Air Force understands. The Army has never understood. We need the leadership to understand this is a national asset,Ē Dyer said. ďIím concerned when the secretary of the Army goes before Congress and says, ĎWe donít need any more tanks.í Thatís interesting, but not relevant. You need the industrial base.Ē

The task force has been successful with a strategy of having people tour the JSMC, converting skeptics to advocates. Dyer said the group needs to get more Army leadership, both uniform and civilian, in the facility. Dyer and Berger agreed to prioritize those officials and work on joint visits to the JSMC and Allison.

Dyer did give the task force pause Thursday. The group has been focused on bridging a three-to-four year gap the Pentagon and White House wanted the Abrams program shuttered. Dyer said the group should actually be looking close to a decade out, to 2020 when new armored vehicle technology will be in full production. Between now and then looms the possibility of automatic defense budget cuts and another base realignment authorization by Congress, in which the federal government looks to trim its defense assets and facilities. It was a BRAC several years ago that created the task force, which successfully fought against closure at the JSMC, which is owned by the government but operated by defense contractor General Dynamics.

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