Friday, January 7, 2011

DDN... Defense spending cuts could cost jobs

Dayton Daily News...
10,000 Ohio jobs put at risk by new cuts in defense spending
By John Nolan, Staff Writer
Friday, January 7, 2011

The Defense Department’s announcement Thursday that it will cancel production of a new amphibious-assault vehicle for the Marine Corps puts at risk 10,000 jobs and a potential $2 billion economic impact in Ohio over the next six to seven years, the manufacturer General Dynamics Corp. said.

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and Rep. Mike Turner, R-Centerville, urged that the government complete prototype testing of the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle and evaluate the results.

Development of a new amphibious-assault vehicle for the Marine Corps is years behind, has sustained billions of dollars in cost overruns and needs to be canceled, the Defense Department said Thursday.

The Marine Corps said it supported Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ decision, as part of $100 billion in cuts over the next five years the military services were directed to make so they could use that money for higher-priority programs to support today’s warfighters. Costs of fighting two wars, and rising government budget deficits, are increasing pressure on the Pentagon for what it terms “cost efficiencies.”

Gen. James Amos, Marine Corps commandant, said he supported the decision to terminate the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle program so the Marines can pursue “a more affordable amphibious tracked fighting vehicle.” It could go from the water onto land, and would replace the Marines’ current, 40-year-old assault vehicle.

“We must come to realize that not every defense program is necessary ... and that more of everything is simply not sustainable,” Gates told reporters at a Pentagon press briefing.

Congress is likely to push back, with some members contending that already-budgeted funding for this year should be used to complete testing prototypes of the new vehicle to assess the results.

“The wrong course of action is to symbolically cancel a heavily invested program without evaluating its success, thereby sacrificing the fiscal and physical security of the taxpayer,” said Rep. Mike Turner, R-Centerville, a member of the House Armed Services Committee.

It has cost the government $3 billion for prototype-development of the Marines’ new amphibious vehicle, and $12 billion more would be needed to complete the program that would drain much of the Marines’ procurement budget, Gates said. The government will upgrade the Marines’ current amphibious assault vehicles with new engines and armaments to extend their use, Gates said.

Many of the EFV program’s jobs are at General Dynamics Corp.’s military vehicle-producing plant in Lima, Ohio, with suppliers and jobs in Ohio and other states, company officials said. The Lima plant also makes Abrams tanks and Stryker infantry transport vehicles for the Army.

General Dynamics, which is testing prototypes of the new vehicle and hoped to make 573 of them in full production over six or seven years, said the decision would be costly.

“By canceling the program, the Defense Department is abandoning the $3.3 billion it has invested to date in developing the vehicle,” General Dynamics said.

The Air Force said that it identified $34 billion in “efficiencies” over five years that it plans to reallocate to develop a new, long-range bomber; produce more remotely piloted aircraft; modernize radar systems to keep aging F-15 fighters is use longer, and buy additional crew training simulators for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

Gates said that belt-tightening will continue for years.

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