LIMA — Task force members trying to keep the Abrams tank program running have long believed visits to the facility are the best negotiating tool they have.
The Joint Systems Manufacturing Center has hosted many high-profile visits in recent years, but they didn’t get much bigger than Monday’s tour by Assistant Secretary of the Army Heidi Shyu, who is in charge of acquiring goods for the Army.
U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton, chairman of the House Armed Services Tactical Air and Land Forces Subcommittee, accompanied Shyu. Turner has visited the facility previously; Shyu had not.
Shyu didn't make any specific commitments to keeping the facility open but said she was impressed with the people and the technology.
“It’s a place I’ve wanted to visit. It’s a fantastic opportunity to be here,” Shyu said. “I’ve seen a lot of view graphs. It’s not the same as being here in person, seeing for yourself. Coming here, walking down the line and seeing the capabilities and machinery and the facility that’s here is amazing, and the caliber of the people are very impressive — how dedicated they are to their jobs. It’s a real pleasure for me to see that.”
Turner said Shyu represents new longer-term thinking in the Army about protection of the county’s industrial base and workforce as a national security issue.
Reporters were prohibited from joining the tour Monday, which also included other officials from General Dynamics and the Army. Turner later recounted a story from the day. On the tour, an employee asked how they could know Shyu cared about the workforce and the plant.
“Because I’m here,” she said.
Task Force LIMA and a bipartisan group in Congress are trying to close a window during which the Pentagon wants to temporarily shut down the Abrams tank program at the JSMC. The Pentagon wants halt the Abrams program from 2014 to 2017 because officials believe they have enough tanks and want to save money.
A bipartisan group in Congress and a local task force, headed by Mayor David Berger, have argued shuttering the program temporarily and bringing it back up would cost more money than keeping the line warm with minimal production. It also would irreparably harm the industrial workforce that does the work, they have argued.
Congress has inserted money into the defense budget for the minimal production. That work, along with foreign sales production for Israel and Saudi Arabia and other smaller projects, is keeping the plant open.
Both Turner and Shyu are key to determining the Abrams’ fate. Turner has thrown his support behind keeping the line warm. His subcommittee has oversight of the acquisition of the M1 Abrams Main Battle Tanks produced and modernized at the facility, which is owned by the federal government and operated by private defense contractor General Dynamics.
Turner dismissed recent media reports about General Dynamics’ lobbying dollars and the suppliers’ location in multiple Congressional districts playing roles in keeping the plant open. Turner said anyone who sees the facility understands its importance to national security.
Shyu was confirmed as the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology on Sept. 21, 2012. She serves as the Army acquisition executive, the senior procurement executive, the science adviser to the secretary of the Army, and the Army’s senior research and development official. She also has principal responsibility for all Department of the Army matters related to logistics. Shyu leads the execution of the Army’s acquisition function and the acquisition management system.