President Trump’s visit this week to the Army’s sole surviving tank plant in Lima, Ohio is the first such presidential visit there since George W. Bush stopped by in 2003. President Obama never visited, and the depressed level of military spending during his presidency nearly shut the place down.
That is not an exaggeration. Wrongly assuming that Russia had ceased to be a threat to global security, the Obama administration cut the number of Army armored brigades to a record low of nine. Production of upgraded Abrams tanks at the Lima site fell to a single tank per month, and the Army seriously considered mothballing its only facility capable of producing the nation’s premier land warfare weapon.
As if all that were not enough, the Obama administration also killed a badly needed Marine amphibious landing vehicle that would have been built at Lima. The tank plant had been renamed the Joint Systems Manufacturing Center in the expectation it would be turning out armored combat systems for both the Army and the Marines, but Obama’s defense team decided the Marines could do without an agile replacement for their slow moving, 40-year-old amphibious vehicles.
President Trump has reversed this litany of non-stop mistakes in managing the nation’s armored vehicle industrial base, increasing funding for upgrades and modifications to the Abrams main battle tank to over $2 billion in the Pentagon’s 2020 budget request. As a result, the number of employees at the Lima plant will grow from a low of about 400 two years ago to over a thousand by the end of next year. Prime contractor General Dynamics (a consulting client and contributor to my think tank) is busily recruiting and training a new generation of workers to keep the plant humming.