When people think about Michigan, they usually think about cars. They should also think about tanks.
In 1940, President Roosevelt called on American industry to become the "great arsenal of democracy." Automotive manufacturers in Michigan responded and converted their assembly lines from cars to tanks and helped America win World War II. For many years thereafter, tanks were produced at the Detroit Arsenal. Today, the Warren Tank Plant no longer assembles tanks, but the tank industrial base is still alive and well at more than 200 Michigan companies, including General Dynamics Land Systems, based in Sterling Heights.
Earlier this year, after three decades of building, upgrading and improving the Abrams main battle tank, the Pentagon proposed to halt tank upgrades in 2013 and then restart tank production in 2017. Critics of the proposal point out that the cost of shutting down tank production could ultimately cost taxpayers $200 million more than just maintaining tank upgrades at the current rate.
The armored vehicle manufacturing base is not a light switch that can be turned on and off at will. If we mothball production of systems like the Abrams tank, it will take time and money to get this capability back.
The House of Representatives approved a Defense funding bill last Friday that includes an additional $272 million for tank production, bringing total funding for the Abrams program to $453 million, which is enough to continue building 70 tanks in 2013. The House approved the Defense bill on a vote of 336 to 87. The defense measure must now be approved by the U.S. Senate.
Seventy-one year ago, Franklin Roosevelt invoked the Arsenal of Democracy and Michigan answered. Today, in Macomb County and all across Southeastern Michigan, we design and build the most advanced and effective technologies to protect our troops in the field. Michigan has a lot at stake in the defense industry and the defense industry has a lot at stake in Michigan.