Last night, Vice President Biden threatened the continued production of Abrams tanks and combat vehicles, which are critical to our national security, saying unequivocally, "we don't need more M1 tanks."
Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, reacted today, saying:
"Since World War II, there have been reoccurring predictions that the days of tanks and ground combat vehicles were behind us, but it never takes long for those predictions to be shattered. In last night's debate, Vice President Biden added himself to this list of naysayers. The past decade has once again demonstrated the critical role of tanks in fulfilling our national security. The Army knows it needs to upgrade its tanks in a few years, but if the White House has their short-sighted way, there may not be a ready U.S. industrial base to do it."
M1 Abrams tanks and other tracked vehicle production require unique parts suppliers and workforce skills, and Ohio is home to 65 suppliers, including the Joint Systems Manufacturing Center (JSMC) in Lima. Continued production will sustain a unique set of industrial facilities and, more importantly, protect a highly skilled workforce that oftentimes has decades of experience and is not easily replaced. Abrams production accounts for 800 jobs in Lima alone. Loss of these jobs would be a blow to Ohio's economy during a time of $16 trillion deficits and anemic economic growth.
Vice President Biden's comments last night were not the first time the Obama Administration has threatened the jobs. Last year, when the President and his Pentagon proposed shutting down U.S. tank production for the first time since World War II, Senator Portman fought efforts to defund work done at JSMC in the Senate Armed Services Committee. In the markup of the National Defense Authorization Act for FY2013, Portman stated, "I will continue to work with the Army, the contractor, and my colleagues to ensure that production rates at Lima are achieved to sustain this facility through FY 2014 and beyond. Continuing minimum production will retain this national capability and be less expensive than mothballing JSMC as the Pentagon proposes."
The Senate Armed Services Committee Authorization bill ultimately adds $91 million for the advanced procurement of long-lead materials that will be needed to continue Abrams upgrades into 2015. JSMC will be manufacturing upgraded Abrams tanks through mid-2014 under current Pentagon plans, but the President's Budget once again puts this national asset at risk.
If funding is not added to the FY 2013 President's Budget for the Abrams Upgrade program, the Defense Department will shutter the same combat vehicle industrial base it intends to try to restart in 2017 to continue the modernization of the Abrams tank and to produce the Ground Combat Vehicle and other systems.
The transcript of Vice President Biden's remarks is below:
VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: Why --
REP. RYAN: We've been looking for bipartisanship for a long time.
VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: And so the bipartisanship is what he voted for: the automatic cuts in defense if they didn't act. And beyond that, they asked for another -- look, the military says, we need a smaller, leaner Army. We need more special forces. We need -- we don't need more M1 tanks. What we need is more UAVs.