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May 29—WASHINGTON — The Abrams Main Battle Tank program at the Joint Systems Manufacturing Center in Lima stands to lose almost $400 million in the proposed defense budget of President Joe Biden.
The Biden administration's budget requests $981 million for Abrams tank modification which is down from the $1.4 billion it received in the previous year's budget.
Lima Mayor David Berger, who is co-chair of Task Force Lima, was optimistic that funding would be restored.
"This had unanimous bipartisan support from the congressional delegation and I expect that will continue going forward," Berger said Saturday. "The plant's back over 900-plus employees and they're building 30 tanks a month. That's from when they were building one tank (a month). So things are going well out there and I think we'll continue to see them go well for quite some time."
U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, called the budget decision a step backward.
"I'm very disappointed to see the Biden administration supporting budget cuts for modernization of these Abrams Main Battle Tank," Portman said late Friday. "During the Trump administration, we saw much-needed increases in the level of modernization funding and the Biden administration is now taking a step back. It is vital that our troops have the best equipment in the world, which is why our tanks must be continually upgraded."
The modifications are done by the strategic, skilled workforce at the Lima Tank Plant, Portman said.
"The best tanks and armored vehicles in the world are made at JSMC, and it is absolutely critical that we maintain funding for the vehicles modified and built at this military facility," Portman said. "The JSMC and our Ohio workers are not just making our country safer, they're supporting our allies around the world during some very dangerous times."
He called JSMC a strategic asset for the United States and its workers are key contributors to our nation's defense and security.
"Both the Abrams as well as the Stryker vehicles have just proven themselves to be an exception for our military and I don't see them going away anytime soon," Berger said.
In past years the plant has received strong bi-partisan support with not only Portman and Republican U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, but also Democrat U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown. It has received visits from presidents Donald Trump in 2019 and George W. Bush in 2oo3.
U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton, visited the facility in 2015 with a representative of the Israeli ministry of defense. At the time, Turner was chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces.
Ohio is home to more than 30 federal and military installations, which employ roughly 90,000 Ohioans — including more than 900 workers at the JSMC.
Besides the Abrams tank upgrades, JSMC produces the hull structure of the Namer Armored Personnel Carrier; hull structures for the Stryker family of vehicles; and MK 46 Naval Weapons Gun Station turrets.
"I am proud to have been a part in keeping the plant viable during a critical time and I will continue to fight tirelessly to keep our military strong and supplied with the best weapons," said Portman.