One of my highest priorities in the U.S. Senate is to ensure that the men and women of our armed forces have the equipment and cutting-edge technology they need to carry out their critical missions around the world. It is through our ability to project force that we keep the peace. That’s why I’ve fought, and will continue to fight, for the Joint Systems Manufacturing Center (JSMC) in Lima, and for the men and women who work there. Simply put, the JSMC and those who work there are key to our military readiness. I recently visited JSMC to speak with the workers there, and was pleased to see that the plant is the healthiest that it’s been in years, with vehicles being produced at some of the highest rates in a decade.
This is good news for our country.
The best tanks and armored vehicles in the world roll off the assembly lines at the JSMC. In fact, it’s the only facility in the United States that has the capacity to produce both the M1 Abrams tanks and the Stryker Armored Vehicles that our forward-deployed men and women in uniform rely on every day.
I’ve seen firsthand how important these vehicles are to the soldiers who use them in the field.
Last year, I had the opportunity to be the first member of Congress to see the latest models of the Dragoon variant of the Stryker vehicles deployed in the field when I visited the 2nd Cavalry Regiment in Germany, where they train with a coalition of our allies, including Poland, the United Kingdom, and Denmark. A few years ago, I also visited troops in Latvia, right on the frontier of NATO, where Ohio-built M1 Abrams tanks form the backbone of our forces. I heard directly from our forward-deployed soldiers about how much they value JSMC’s impressive products. These lethal and effective vehicles help protect our troops and send an important message to our European allies about our commitment to the region in the face of an increasingly aggressive Russia.
I’ve also seen how important these vehicles are to the hard-working Ohioans who build them. The Obama administration attempted to shutter JSMC in 2011. It was as obvious to me back then as it is today that doing so would be bad for our military, bad for taxpayers, and bad for Lima. It would have disrupted a critical supply chain, forced us to spend more to keep our military modernized, dispersed the unique and highly trained workforce at the plant, and hurt the entire community.
I fought those efforts eight years ago and was successful in keeping the plant open. Though the plant was operating at minimal production levels, working with Congressman Jim Jordan and others, we helped the plant find work by modernizing U.S. Army tanks and by building tanks and armored vehicles for foreign countries, contracts that continue to this day. I also advocated for Congress to increase funding during that time. As the Trump administration and Congress have increased defense spending these past two years, we have seen a welcome increase in production at the plant.
Over the years, we’ve also worked to help workers at Lima by addressing maintenance backlogs that threatened their safety at the factory. After the Obama administration scaled back jobs, I worked with the Department of Defense’s Office of Economic Adjustment to make sure those who lost their jobs could land on their feet and continue to provide for their families.
Most recently, I fought for the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for fiscal year 2020, which will authorize $1.7 billion to increase the rate of production of M1 Abrams tanks, as well as upgrade tanks and Strykers that are already in service.
America remains a shining city on a hill and a beacon of democracy and freedom because of the bravery of the men and women of our armed forces. We owe them the best equipment and technology to conduct their critical mission in a dangerous world. That means I’ll continue to fight to make sure the highly skilled and patriotic workers in Lima have the resources to help our troops keep the peace through strength, and protect us all.
Reach U.S. Sen. Rob Portman,R-Ohio, at 420 Madison Ave., Room 1210,
Toledo, Ohio 43604 or call 419-259-3895