LIMA — It is not as easy as it once was to find a parking space at Lima’s Joint Systems Manufacturing Center, and that is something U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, likes to see.
Portman toured the tank production facility Tuesday, part of a five-day tour of Ohio military installations. Along with getting a look at some of the increased activity and new projects the facility is undertaking, including both producing an upgraded Abrams tank and modernizing Stryker personnel carriers, Portman also held a town hall discussion with employees to hear their thoughts and concerns.
“About six or seven years ago, the administration said it wanted to shut down this plant because people, frankly, didn’t see the need for tank production at that time,” he said. “We fought hard to keep the line open and keep the facility open, and thank goodness, because now you see the need for us to upgrade our current tanks, building a new tank, essentially.”
Portman also called for a multiyear approach to procuring tanks for the military, providing stability and job security to plant employees.
“This gives General Dynamics and the supplier base more predictability,” he said. “It gives the workforce more predictability, knowing there would be four or five years of production. Finally, it helps the taxpayer. It actually saves money, and some of the numbers we’ve run show it could save hundreds of millions of dollars over time because we’re predicting and planning rather than shutting things down and starting up again.”
A self-described “budget hawk,” Portman reiterated that, while additional funds are being allocated to the military and to supporting installations like the tank plant, that money must be carefully administered.
“I hope we don’t end up in a war, but you want to have the ability to show strength because you get peace through strength,” he said. “We need to do this in a smart way. We need to make sure the procurement programs are carefully overseen so you don’t have big increases that you saw in the Joint Strike Fighter program. The money needs to be spent wisely, but we have to be sure that our military is prepared.”