By Tony Bertuca
The Army has sent Congress a plan for how it will spend $90 million lawmakers added to the service’s Abrams tank program in fiscal year 2014 to help shore up the combat vehicle industrial base, though some of the money will go toward establishing “leaner” tank production processes, according to an internal presentation obtained by InsideDefense.com.
The bulk of the funding — $62.8 million — would go to General Dynamics Land Systems, the prime contractor for the Abrams, to build six tanks. Allison Transmission would receive $15 million for 43 tank transmissions; a DRS and Raytheon team would get $10.5 million to purchase more than 260 forward-looking infrared camera systems; and $1.7 million would be spent “optimizing” the government’s Joint Systems Manufacturing Center in Lima, OH, managed by GDLS.
Interestingly, the JSMC optimization funding would “start the development of leaner Abrams production processes to support the lower manufacturing rates of the future,” according to the briefing slides, which are marked “distribution authorized to DOD and U.S. DOD contractors only.”
A government official familiar with the plan said it represented “seed money” that would be the first step on an Army path to implement more “efficient” processes at JSMC.
The Army’s goal for supporting the Abrams industrial base at the onset of fiscal austerity calls for sustaining “critical skills at JSMC by leveraging foreign military sales and limited U.S. Army production through 2017, while implementing a factory optimization effort that enables cost effective tank production at [a minimum sustainment rate] of 5-8 tanks per month by 2017,” the slides state.
Sources said GDLS may also take issue with the Army’s plans for an MSR of five to eight tanks per month as industry would prefer to see a number closer to 12.
GDLS has been lobbying Congress for the past several years to continue the flow of unrequested cash in the face of what the company perceives as a short-sighted Army strategy to pause tank production in favor of plans that rely on foreign military sales to sustain the production line.
Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH), chairman of the House Armed Services tactical air and land forces subcommittee, pressed Army leaders on the industrial base issue during an April 2 hearing.
“Congress takes criticism for the perceived parochial support of one platform over another, but the reality is, although we certainly support American jobs in our districts, the bigger picture of concern and oversight isn’t about the survival of one platform versus another,” he said at the time. “This industrial base cannot be turned on and off like a light switch, and it is the purview of this committee and our subcommittee’s responsibilities to look into the industrial base and find ways that we need to preserve the industrial base.