BAE Systems has brokered a deal with the Army to keep the Bradley line moving through the middle of next year.
Now the defense contractor is getting help from the York County House delegation and other state lawmakers.
The legislators are supporting state House Resolution 597, which asks the Army to reconsider a temporary suspension of the Bradley line. It was passed this week by the House Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee, and its author expects it to receive full support from the General Assembly.
"We're asking them to keep the line warm instead of temporarily shutting it down for three years, which would impact the local economy and our military readiness," said state Rep. Seth Grover, R-Dover.
President Barack Obama's fiscal year 2013 budget outlined a production break for the Army's Bradley Fighting Vehicle program, which was set to begin this year and possibly extend through 2017.
That production has been decried by U.S. Sens. Bob Casey, D-Scranton, and Pat Toomey, R-Lehigh Valley, U.S. Rep. Scott Perry, R-Dillsburg, and BAE, who all say the decision will cost jobs and threaten national security.
The contract: However, a $53 million Army contract is allowing BAE to convert Bradleys and keep production moving until mid-2015.
The contract has helped BAE hold on to a smaller group of highly skilled workers, but it wasn't enough to stave off 400 layoffs in the last year as federal defense spending has dried up with the ending of two wars.
"Defense is a cyclical business by nature. As our military customer's demands go up or down, certainly we need to respond accordingly. We've had a slowdown before, but we've never had a shutdown," said BAE spokesman Randy Coble.
BAE is the only manufacturer that makes the Bradley vehicles. If the line shuts down and there's an unexpected military emergency, it's unclear how long it would take the West Manchester site to churn out another vehicle.
"It's not just one plant. There's a network of 600 businesses nationwide involved in producing the Bradley. How fast can you reconstitute a system like that, when much of it is very specialized defense materials? How quickly can an industrial base ramp up from a shutdown? I don't know. We've never had to do it before," Coble said.
Lawmakers' visit: BAE on Thursday will discuss the issue with state legislators when they visit the West Manchester Township site.
"We know it's a very complex system," said state Rep. Kevin Schreiber, D-York City. "They're not making widgets there. You can't put these machines together with the snap of a finger, and we don't want to lose talent, lose the manufacturing base, lose the supply chain for a production break."
The Bradley line is entering its lowest production levels in the program's 30-year history, but BAE continues to negotiate with the Army for modification contracts to keep it going, Coble said.
BAE is also managing one of the company's lowest headcounts during the last 30 years. In November 2009, the local site had about 3,000 employees. After 135 layoffs recently, there are about 1,000 workers at the West Manchester Township facility, he said.
If the line goes cold, jobs will be impacted, but it's too soon to say how many, Coble said.
"A Bradley shutdown could mean 1,000 jobs lost in the York community, and we don't want to see that happen," Schrieber said.
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