A bipartisan amendment currently pending on the U.S. Senate floor could save more than 500 York County jobs and keep $60 million in the local economy.
Introduced by Pennsylvania U.S. Sens. Bob Casey, D-, and Pat Toomey, R-, the Bradley Fighting Vehicle amendment has been included in the National Defense Authorization Act to prevent a potential three-year production break in the manufacturing of the Army combat machines.
President Barack Obama's fiscal year 2013 budget outlines a production break for the Bradleys, beginning in 2014 and possibly extending through 2017.
That production break would largely affect business at BAE Systems, which builds and upgrades the vehicles at its facilities in York and Fayette counties.
At the defense contractor's West Manchester Township operation, which employs about 1,250 people, it could mean the loss of hundreds of jobs, according to Casey.
"Every year, this combat vehicle supports more than 500 jobs in York and boosts the commonwealth's economy by $60 million while keeping our troops safe. It's critical that we keep production going," he said.
It could also cost BAE; the company estimates the costs of shutting down and restarting could balloon to $750 million, while possibly losing an experienced workforce, engineering talent and key suppliers across the county and country.
"BAE Systems (would have to) significantly reduce our York workforce of skilled craftsmen due to a forced shutdown of the Bradley line by mid-2014," said Todd Harrold, the executive in charge of the York facility and vice president of manufacturing operations.
After such a shutdown, many employees would not be available to return in two or three years, he said.
Anything that shines a spotlight on the situation - such as the study suggested by Casey and Toomey that would order the Army secretary to determine the impacts of a production break - would be helpful, Harrold said.
The study would assess the quantitative and qualitative impacts of a production break and weigh the cost of a shutdown against the cost of continued production. It would also quantify the loss of the workforce and supplier base, according to the senators.
"I believe insufficient information is available to the Army and Congress to make an informed decision on what the potential risks would be of closing the production lines for the Bradley Fighting Vehicle," Toomey said.
Other local leaders also expressed concerns about the planned shutdown.
"The shutdown ... would have a significant negative impact on the families and businesses in our area. The result of a production shutdown, temporary or otherwise, would create another great burden on an already-struggling economy," said state Sen. Mike Waugh, R-Shrewsbury.
Officials at York-based AMZ Manufacturing Corp., which does high-quality plating for the defense industry, also have a problem with the shutdown.
"The Army asked BAE Systems to estimate how much it would cost to shut down and restart the Bradley manufacturing line. BAE's estimate is ($750) million. Why wouldn't the government look at keeping the line open and upgrading more older Bradleys that need the work anyway?" said Jeffrey Adams, president of AMZ.
Scott Wagner, president of Emigsville-based Penn Waste, said he's glad the shutdown is getting attention. The waste-removal company serves defense contractors, residents and other businesses throughout York, Adams, Cumberland, Dauphin, Lancaster and Perry counties.
"We think that the Army is realizing that if they close the Bradley line down for three years, we may not be around when they need our products later," he said.
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