Rob Portman: JSMC finally receiving level of support it needs

Sen. Rob Portman - Guest Column

America’s military might is unmatched. Our men and women in uniform carry out critical operations and defend democracy across the globe. It is one of my greatest privileges as a U.S. senator to represent the many Ohioans who serve our country, either through military service or as an employee of the many Ohio companies that provide support to our military.

There is no better example of those assisting our men and women in uniform than the patriotic workers at the the Joint Systems Manufacturing Center (JSMC), also known as the Lima Tank PLant.

I recently had the opportunity to once again tour the JSMC and meet with the skilled employees who make the best armored vehicles in the world. It was part of my five-day defense tour across Ohio, where I visited a dozen military facilities and traveled more than 1,400 miles to see some of the valuable contributions Ohioans make toward our national security.

JSMC produces Abrams tanks — the world’s most capable battle tanks, as well as Stryker vehicles — the Army’s most versatile and deployable combat vehicles. After years of effort, the Lima plant is finally receiving the level of support it needs to continue providing world-class armored capabilities to U.S. troops and our allies.

In 2011, when the Obama administration proposed shutting down the Abrams tank production line, I fought alongside other members of the Ohio delegation to keep the plant open. During my tour last month, I saw the newest generation Abrams tanks that JSMC is manufacturing as a result of keeping the plant operational. In fact, I saw the very first one in production that will be delivered to our soldiers this fall. Its advanced capabilities are a testament to American ingenuity and the hardworking people of Lima.

In addition to Abrams tank production, I also saw Lima’s workers building the newest Stryker vehicles for our soldiers overseas. In 2015, the Army said they needed new capabilities for the firepower of their Stryker vehicles in Europe. I led the effort in Congress to secure the necessary funding, and I am proud to say the vehicles are in production now at JSMC and will soon be on their way to assist our troops this fall.

As a part of my recent JSMC visit, I also held an employee town hall where I heard directly from workers at the plant. We discussed how I can assist their operations, the importance of recruiting and training skilled workers, and how we can give the economy a shot in the arm to create more jobs and better wages. I was pleased that the latest increase in funding for JSMC resulted in the plant recalling 40 employees who were previously laid off during the downturn in production, and I am confident that more jobs will continue coming back.

I know the importance of JSMC’s contribution to America’s security, and I have taken those sentiments back to the U.S. Senate again this year where I successfully worked to increase funding for the plant. With the passage of the 2018 Senate defense authorization bill, I’m proud to announce that it provides more than $1.8 billion to increase the rate of production of the newest Abrams tanks and nearly $700 million to modernize Stryker vehicles.

The next step for Abrams production should be a multi-year procurement. This will save taxpayer money and get these new tanks to our soldiers faster. It will also add job stability for employees and grow the workforce here in Lima. I will continue to make the case for this approach as we consider future defense budgets. I know how important this plant is to Lima, and how important Lima is to our national defense.

Defense spending in Ohio accounts for more than 66,000 direct jobs, more than $4 billion in salaries, and more than $14 billion of economic impact. Ohio plays a major role in our country’s national security objectives, and the defense industry is a critical part of our state’s economy.

In addition to my support, JSMC has the support of another powerful advocate in Task Force LIMA. I appreciate the work this group of community and defense leaders does. They serve as a model for the value of community partnership for our defense installations, and I will continue assisting their efforts. The Buckeye State is fortunate to be home to some of the finest defense installations in the country, and our armed forces are fortunate to have some of Ohio’s best and brightest serving and assisting our military. I will proudly continue as your advocate in the U.S. Senate.

Sen. Rob Portman

Guest Column

Write to U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, at his Toledo office: 420 Madison Ave., Room 1210, Toledo, Ohio 43604, or call 419-259-3895. Twitter: @portmanpress

Write to U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, at his Toledo office: 420 Madison Ave., Room 1210, Toledo, Ohio 43604, or call 419-259-3895. Twitter: @portmanpress