More than 170 members of the House, both Democrats and Republicans, have written Defense Secretary Leon Panetta asking him to work with Congress “to sustain U.S. tank production in the FY 2013 budget.”
The House Armed Services Committee plans to take up the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2013 this week, with a full committee markup expected in early May.
In their April 20 letter, members point out that the new strategic guidance “neglects” the U.S. combat vehicle industrial base, though it does point to tactical aviation and shipbuilding as industries requiring national support to remain viable.
The Army’s fiscal year 2013 budget request would shut down the tank industrial base then reconstitute it in 2017 for further M1 tank upgrades and production of the new ground Combat Vehicle. General Dynamics [GD] produces the Abrams tank.
International Abrams sales offer sales opportunities but are not adequate, or certain enough to support the industrial base, the letter said.
This is the latest letter from interested parties on Abrams tank production. Sens. Robert Casey (D-Pa.,) Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and John Kerry (D-Mass.) April 18 wrote their colleagues on the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) in favor of continuing funding for Abrams tanks in the Fiscal Year 2013 budget.
The senators requested SASC fund 33 M1A2 SEP Abrams tanks in FY 2013, which would keep the production line ticking over and avoid eroding the industrial base and job losses (Defense Daily, April 23).
House members, including several who serve on the HASC or House Appropriations Committee, wrote they agreed with Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who said that “capability is more important than size.” Thus, they support continued M1A2 SEP production, which they described as “the world’s most capable tank.”
Many of the concerned members have a strong interest in national security issues. For example, Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.), is a member of the HASC, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and the House Army Caucus.
Congress went through a similar debate during the work on the FY 2012 budget, which also supported additional tank upgrades to stave off industrial base shutdowns until 2014.
Members of the military committees also received letters from the chief of a major tank producers union, the International Union, United Automobile Aerospace & Agricultural Implement Works of America (Defense Daily, April 23).
Additionally, nearly 200 Abrams tank suppliers personally visited Capitol Hill to ask for funding to keep the tank line moving at a low level to keep the industrial base alive (Defense Daily, April 9).