Where the product ends up is never lost on Lori Werner.
The project engineer at BAE Systems has a brother in the Air Force and grandparents who served in the military. Though BAE primarily makes combat vehicles for the Army, Marines and Navy, she knows that it's going to someone working to protect her country.
"You know once the vehicle leaves this facility the next user will be a soldier," Werner said.
The Dallastown resident started working at BAE's West Manchester Township site 9½ years ago when the U.S. Department of Defense subcontractor ramped up production during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Now, for the first time in her career, she said her job feels unstable.
Because President Barack Obama's fiscal year 2013 budget outlines a production break for the Army's Bradley Fighting Vehicle program, beginning in 2014 and possibly extending through 2017, BAE anticipates cutting at least 250 manufacturing jobs next year. Additional jobs and support staff could also be eliminated, company officials said.
"We've never been in a situation like this before," said Alice Conner, director of manufacturing integration and deployments at BAE's local Land & Armaments center.
Conner has worked at the York site for 25 years, transitioning through its many name changes - BMY to United Defense to BAE - and times of war of peace.
"Defense is a cyclical business, and we know that," she said. "We've had to consolidate and right size our operations during peacetime before, but I've never heard of the Army shutting down a line completely."
'Very relevant' Even though the war in Iraq has ended and there's been a draw-down in Afghanistan, Bradleys are still needed by the Army, according to Lt. Col. Glenn Dean, the Army's product manager for Bradley.
The Bradley remains a "very relevant" vehicle for the Army, and the Army was planning two modernization programs for the Bradley, he said.
Bradleys serve four mission roles for troops: infantry fighting vehicle, cavalry fighting vehicle, fire support vehicle and engineer squad vehicle.
"The Bradley is the Army's lone heavy-armored, tracked, infantry fighting vehicle. It provides protected transport of an infantry squad to critical points on the battlefield," said Ashley Givens, spokeswoman for the Army's PEO Ground Combat Systems.
During his last year of service, former U.S. Rep. Todd Platts, R-York County, said he and fellow committee members introduced House Bill 4310, the National Defense Authorization Act, to add $140 million to the Defense budget to keep Bradleys in production.
U.S. Sens. Bob Casey, D-Pa., and Pat Toomey, R-Pa., introduced the Bradley Fighting Vehicle amendment to that act to help prevent the production break by requiring the Army secretary to conduct a study, determining the impact of a production break.
The National Defense Authorization Act has been referred to committee.
Part of the impact of a Bradley shutdown would be the loss of a skilled labor force, Conner said.
"It takes two to three years to train employees in some areas," she said. "Those people are highly skilled, and they're not going to wait around for three years during a break."
Michael Kelly, manufacturing manager for assembly at BAE, has worked on the Bradleys for seven years and manages many of the jobs at risk.
Most of those jobs are held by union employees. The president and vice president of the local United Auto Workers were out of town and were unavailable for comment.
"It's hard. You worry about how you'll put food on the table," Kelly said. "But the workers' performance speaks for itself. They continue to work hard and make each product better than the last."
Loss of talent: Derek Alessi, manufacturing manager for engineering at BAE and Werner's boss, said he's concerned about the loss of talent that could happen during a shutdown.
The Seven Valleys resident has worked at the York site for 14 years.
"Skills retention is a big issue. If we have to hire engineers who aren't familiar with the product, it could take six months to a year to train one worker on one line," Alessi said.
The BAE site has multiple production lines.
"We're not welding just anything, we're welding armor," Conner said. "The paint we use isn't anything you can find at Home Depot. It's specially formulated to resist chemical and biochemical warfare."
Losing the Bradleys, which she said are the "bread and butter" of BAE's business, could also affect the company's many local suppliers.
Last year, BAE spent $19.5 million on items from 115 York County-based suppliers, said spokesman Randy Coble.
Three local companies received the bulk of the money: Military & Commercial Fasteners Corp., which received $7.82 million $7,919, 472; York Electro Mechanical Corp., which received $5.9 million, $5,899,799; and AMZ Corporation, which received $2.5 million $2,490,225.
"Letting the Bradley line go cold will affect everyone here (at BAE) in some way and many more throughout the county," Conner said.
Not knowing how each employee will be affected has made things "very tense," she said.
"The folks here love their jobs. Most of them are not in it for the money and esteem. They're here because they have a personal connection," she said.
About 22 percent of BAE's workforce is made up of veterans, and the rest have someone in their family who is serving or has served, said Conner, whose son is a soldier.
"Our people build Bradleys with pride and respect, really believing ours is the best technology to protect our men and women in uniform," she said.
- Candy Woodall can also be reached at email@example.com.