Navistar idling Mississippi plant

Navistar Defense suspending production at a plant in Mississippi; plant employs 80

WEST POINT, Miss. (AP) -- Navistar Defense is suspending production at its plant in West Point, Miss.

Navistar spokeswoman Lauren McFarland said in a statement that the 80 workers at the plant were notified Thursday. Navistar Defense is part of Warrenville, Ill.-based Navistar International Corp.

McFarland says the decision came in response to across-the-board federal budget reductions known as the sequester that went into effect on March 1.

"The sequester along with the pending drawdown of operations in Afghanistan, have led to a depleted order board, which requires us to make the difficult decision to suspend production at the West Point facility.

"We are navigating through a challenging environment in the defense industry, and this was a very difficult decision because Navistar values the workers. These are truly great people who have produced vehicles that make a difference, but the reality is the defense environment has changed significantly and as a business, Navistar has to change and adapt with it," McFarland said.

The last day for production and for most workers at the facility is July 5.

The West Point plant opened five years ago. It initially assembled the company's MRAP — mine resistant vehicles — that helped better protect soldiers against roadside bombs and other explosive devices in Iraq and Afghanistan. The company has gone on to produce a variety of related vehicles such as armored tow trucks and ambulances to better meet the military's needs.

But after hitting peak production three years ago, orders have steadily slipped.