Yesterday, Senator Portman joined Senator Brown and Rep. Jordan in hosting the Under Secretary of the Army Patrick Murphy in Lima for a tour of the Joint Systems Manufacturing Center (JSMC), which produces world-class armored vehicle capabilities to U.S. troops and our allies.  While the Obama administration proposed shuttering the plant five years ago, Senator Portman has made a commitment to ensuring the long-term viability of the JSMC since taking office, and ensuring this vital facility can continue its critical work on the military’s Abrams tank and Stryker vehicle.  Here are four ways that Portman has made a difference in preserving the JSMC and protecting Lima’s skilled employees that provide a unique capability to our national security and defense industrial base:

  1. Keeping the Lima Plant Open, Protecting Lima Jobs.  Five years ago, the Obama administration proposed shutting down the Abrams tank production line at the JSMC.  It was a short-sighted proposal, and one Senator Portman and other Ohio delegation members fought and successfully defeated because it was wrong for our national security, wrong for taxpayers, and wrong for Lima.  Portman worked to help keep the line going and have it ready for upgrading the Army’s tanks to the newest version beginning in 2017.  Starting next year, the Army will begin producing a new upgrade of the Abrams tank that our servicemembers need to confront the threats of today and the future.  Fortunately, Lima workers, the supply chain and the infrastructure at the plant all stand ready to do just that.
  2. Pushing for More Foreign Military Sales to U.S. Allies.  Another way Portman has made Lima a priority is highlighting the great work of the JSMC, its capabilities and its workforce to our allies, especially as they confront regional security challenges.  He has pushed for more foreign military sales to Israel, Morocco, and Saudi Arabia, among others.  Just this August, Portman applauded the State Department’s approval of a potential foreign military sale of Abrams tanks and armored recovery vehicles to Saudi Arabia, saying the agreement would benefit Lima’s JSMC.
  3. Singlehandedly Securing Funding for Stryker Upgrades.  In 2015, Portman singlehandedly worked to secure $371 million in funding to support research and development and procurement of 83 Stryker vehicles with the upgraded weapon systems.  While in Latvia visiting an Abrams tank company on a NATO mission, Portman saw firsthand the important role that America’s tanks and armored vehicles are playing in deterring Russian aggression and reassuring NATO allies.  However, he was concerned about an emerging capability gap between the firepower of America’s Stryker combat vehicles and those of potential adversaries, a gap that U.S. Army Europe was hoping to address when it submitted an urgent Operational Needs Statement requesting a more powerful gun on its Stryker vehicles.  Portman responded quickly, successfully offered an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act and secured the funding for the Stryker upgrades.  This was a huge win for Lima and the JSMC, and the first prototypes of upgraded Strykers are now being rolled out.
  4. Protecting Lima Workers Affected the JSMC Drawdown.  Portman has also led efforts to help Lima workers who lost their jobs because of lower production levels at the JSMC in recent years.  In 2013, Portman organized a one-day fly-in for Task Force LIMA members to meet with various officials at the Pentagon and on Capitol Hill to advocate for JSMC.  One of these meetings was with Department of Defense’s (DOD) Office of Economic Adjustment (OEA), which helped Lima officials learn more about applying for OEA grants to help communities whose workforce is affected by changes in DOD contracting or basing decisions.  In 2014, Portman announced that Allen County received an OEA phase one grant of more than $200,000.  In October 2015, Portman and Senator Brown announced that Allen County was being awarded more than $3 million in a phase two grant.  As work on the Abrams tank and Stryker vehicles continues to ramp back up, Portman is hopeful that JSMC will be re-hiring many of these workers.

As the global security environment has evolved – especially Russia’s aggression in Eastern Europe – so too has the importance of armored vehicles for our Army’s ability to help keep America safe.  As Portman has visited allies in Eastern Europe, including Latvia, Poland, and Ukraine, he has seen firsthand how important the U.S. presence in Europe is to our allies in the region and got an up-close look at how the work being done in Lima at the JSMC helps support our national security objectives overseas. 

That is why Portman has worked closely with his colleagues and the Senate Armed Services Committee, the Senate Appropriations Committee, and Department of Defense (DOD) to promote the work done in Lima. The Under Secretary’s visit yesterday was important because it gave him a firsthand look at the great work being done at the JSMC.  Here’s what Portman said about the visit:

The best tanks and armored vehicles in the world are made in Lima, Ohio.  The JSMC and our Ohio workers are not just making our country safer, they’re supporting our allies around the world during some very dangerous times. I was happy to show off these Ohio manufacturers to the Under Secretary and to reiterate to the Obama Administration the critical role they play in our national security.”

While meeting with Ash Carter during his confirmation hearings as Secretary of Defense in February 2015, Portman took the opportunity to discuss the importance of JSMC and the Stryker program.  This underscores his dedication and commitment to Lima, and Portman will continue to lead efforts to advocate for the plant, its workers, and the unparalleled capabilities it provides to our men and women in uniform.  For more information on Portman’s work to protect Lima’s workers and keep national security strong, see his op-ed in Lima News.