Portman Urges Action to Avert Unnecessary Risk to Tank Production Capability

June 7, 2013 | Press Releases

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio) sent a letter to the Chairs and Ranking Members of the U.S. Senate Committee on Armed Services and Subcommittee on Airland prior to the consideration of the Fiscal Year 2014 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) mark-up urging them to ensure that the nation’s tank industrial base is not needlessly jeopardized.

In the Fiscal Years 2012 and 2013 budget deliberations, the Committee took actions to avert unnecessary risk to this national capability as the Army further evaluated the implications of its proposals. As the Committee has acknowledged in the past two years, appropriately addressing this matter in the near term will save taxpayer dollars over the longer-term, and ensure we maintain a critical defense capability, on which our country is slated to rely for decades to come.

The full text of the letter is below.  Read a signed copy here.  

Dear Chairman Levin, Ranking Member Inhofe, Chairman Manchin, and Ranking Member Wicker;

As you begin your consideration of the Fiscal Year 2014 National Defense Authorization Act, I’d like to bring to your attention a matter of urgent concern.  As you are aware, in both the Fiscal Years 2012 and 2013 budget deliberations we debated and addressed particular concerns related to our country’s tank industrial base.  In both the 2012 and 2013 Defense Authorization bills, the Committee took actions to avert unnecessary risk to this national capability as the Army further evaluated the implications of its proposals.  Central to this debate was the total cost and challenges of restarting a production line after a period of shutdown. 
 
Despite their original proposals, Army leaders have since recognized the perils and cost implications of shutting down Abrams production, only to try to restart it several years later.  In written responses to questions I posed at our Armed Services Committee March 8, 2012 hearing on the FY2013 Army Budget Proposal, General Ray Odierno, Chief of Staff of the Army, stated that the “the Army is not shutting down the Joint Systems Manufacturing Center (JSMC)” and it plans to sustain the industrial base through Foreign Military Sales (FMS).  He further noted that “this additional production will help mitigate most of the vendor risks, and the Army is analyzing other mitigating activities for vendor capabilities not addressed by increased FMS sales.” 
 
While this policy reversal was welcomed, unfortunately, the Army’s plan to avert risk to the Abrams industrial base fails to meet its objective.  First of all, not having sustained domestic production places the industrial base at the whim of foreign customers and increases the risk we ask our foreign partners to shoulder, making purchases even less attractive.  Additionally, export vehicles fail to sustain the most advanced elements of our production capability – one of the most important capabilities the Army says it needs in a few years.  While the Army claims it is analyzing other mitigating activities for these capabilities, the efforts to understand this problem are still ongoing. 
 
More significantly, the current projections for FMS mean mitigation will be necessary for far more than a small slice of unique, high-end capabilities.  The currently planned and expected FMS cases fail to provide minimum sustaining work until new domestic Abrams production is slated to restart.  Multiple FMS cases that the Army expected in future years have either failed to materialize or been reduced in scope.  Despite their plans to rely on FMS, the Army has not produced a strategy to address the lack of foreign production slated for FY2016 or FY2017.  Ordering long-lead items for 2016 production will be necessary near the end of FY2014.  This failure by the Army to adequately implement its stated plan results in unnecessary risk to an industrial base that the Army now recognizes must be adequately maintained to ensure its preparedness for future Army tank requirements. 
 
I recognize this is one of many issues facing the Committee as you assess the needs of our Defense Department within the framework of our current budget environment.  As the Committee has acknowledged in the past two years, appropriately addressing this matter in the near-term will save taxpayer dollars over the longer-term, and ensure we maintain a critical defense capability on which our country is slated to rely for decades to come. 
 
I appreciate your strong support of our nation's tank production capability and I look forward to working with you to ensure there is adequate planning and resources to continue that capability into the future.

Sincerely,

Rob Portman