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House OKs Abrams funds; Senate to act today; deal would let tank plant in Lima remain open

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Sen. Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio) said the National Defense Authorization Act, with funds for the Abrams tank plant in Lima, was passed in the House Wednesday, is set to pass the Senate today, and is likely to be signed by President Obama on Friday.

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WASHINGTON — Production of the M1A2 Abrams tank in Lima, Ohio, will be able to continue beyond its threatened closing date in 2013 under a budget agreement approved by a House-Senate conference committee, Ohio’s two U.S. senators said on Wednesday.

Sen. Rob Portman (R., Ohio) said the conference committee approved $136 million to fund upgrading of the Abrams tank at the Lima facility through 2014. The battle tank is built at the Joint Systems Manufacturing Center in Lima by General Dynamics Land Systems.

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio) said the National Defense Authorization Act with the funds was passed in the House Wednesday, is set to pass the Senate today, and is likely to be signed by President Obama on Friday.

“The Abrams tank is vital to our national security, and keeping its production and modernization going is critical to our military readiness and preparedness. The Defense Authorization conference bill is good for the Abrams tank program and good for Allen County’s economy. Continued investments in the Abrams tank program means that our armed forces will be properly equipped and that jobs in Lima will be saved,” Mr. Brown said.

Mr. Portman opposed the Pentagon’s plan to close the plant in 2013 and to reactivate it in 2016 for the next phase of Abrams upgrades in 2017. During the presidential campaign, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, GOP presidential and vice presidential nominees, attacked Mr. Obama over the Department of Defense’s plan to close the plant.

“The Army knows it needs to upgrade its tanks in a few years and has started to recognize that they can’t just turn off the industrial base and then turn it right back on a few years later,” Mr. Portman said. “Unfortunately though, the Pentagon’s latest proposal did not include adequate funding to ensure that capability will be there when they say they need it.

“Continuing minimum production will retain this national capability and reduce the risk associated with being fully dependent on foreign military sales as the Pentagon proposes,” Mr. Portman said.

Peter Keating, spokesman for General Dynamics Land Systems in Sterling Heights, Mich., said the firm “certainly appreciates the efforts of Senator Portman and Senator Brown for taking the cause of keeping the plant going.”

He said the Army’s plan had been to stop funding tanks starting in 2013, but congressional efforts have made it possible to run the upgrade for two more years, during 2013 and 2014, and possibly into 2015.

The plant employs about 700 people, most of whom work on the Abrams. The plant builds the M1A2 Abrams battle tank for the Army. It also refurbishes the M1A1 Abrams for international customers and welds structures for the Stryker wheeled combat vehicle, as well as occasional other projects.

Mr. Keating said it’s questionable whether the plant’s international customers would be able to afford the products if they had to absorb all the cost of the plant’s overhead.

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