Michael Herson in the News

General Dynamics Seeks About $230 Million to Keep Building Tanks

March 26, 2014 06:57AM ET

Bloomberg Government

Emboldened by last year’s success – – when Congress agreed to spend $90 million on upgraded battle tanks the Pentagon didn’t want — manufacturer General Dynamics Corp. is asking for more.

The Falls Church, Virginia-based company, is lobbying for about $230 million, or enough to produce about 24 tanks. Compare that to what the Army wants to spend on new tanks: $0.

The money is necessary to “bridge the gap” to 2017 when Army plans to invest again in modernized tanks, Peter Keating, a General Dynamics spokesman, said in a telephone interview.

“We’ll find a way to do it as we have in the past,” said Democrat Marcy Kaptur of Ohio, who serves on the Appropriations Defense Subcommittee.

The Army had planned to suspend work on the Abrams M1A2 model tanks as it resizes its fleet of combat vehicles after the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Army Secretary John McHugh and General Ray Odierno, the chief of staff, have said that it would cost $600 million to close the Lima, Ohio tank plant and later reopen it, versus as much as $3 billion to keep it open continuously.

General Dynamics produced its own analysis that concluded the cost would be $1.6 billion to restart the plant, versus $1.3 billion to keep a production line working on about 70 tanks a year.

The company has hired a number of firms to press for tank funding on Capitol Hill, including American Defense International, led by Michael Herson, a former special assistant at the Pentagon.

The lobbyists for another of those firms, Shockey Scofield Solutions, include Jeff Shockey, a former House Appropriations staff director; John Scofield, a former House Appropriations communications director; and Mike Ference, formerly director of strategic development for House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.

FifeStrategies’ Menda Fife, a former Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee staffer, also disclosed she lobbied for foreign military sales of the Abrams tank on behalf of General Dynamics, according to 2013 lobbying reports.

General Dynamics officials are reaching out to staff and members of the congressional defense committees, according to Keating, the spokesman. “The decision on when to engage suppliers and arrange for Washington D.C. visits will occur after the initial round of testimony before the defense committees,” Keating said in an e-mail.

Aside from Ohio, the tank also is responsible for jobs in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Florida.

In 2013, the company spent more than $11 million lobbying for its programs, including the Abrams tank, according to data compiled from the Senate’s disclosure database.

The Abrams is the Army’s main battle tank. It was designed more than 30 years ago to defeat Soviet forces in a land war. The Army and Marine Corps have an inventory of about 6000 tanks.

Senator Rob Portman, an Ohio Republican, said he’ll continue to push for funding. Mothballing the plant “would be a big mistake,” he said in an interview.

“Let’s not shut down the only tank plant in the country,” Portman, a member of the Budget Committee, said in an interview. “You lose the work force, you lose the supply chain, you lose the ability to start it back up without a huge investment from the taxpayers. So I am going to continue to promote that.”

The situation in Ukraine and Europe should also be an argument for backing the tank program, said Kaptur. By keeping it, the U.S. would be “ready for all eventualities,” she said.