The Army has no plans to shut down the Anniston Army Depot and will try to direct more vehicle maintenance work its way in the future, the facility's top overseer says.
Gen. Dennis Via, commander of the U.S. Army Materiel Command, said there is little chance any of the Army's depots will be shut down, according to a recent article published by the National Defense Industrial Association, an association for the United States Government and the defense industry. Instead, the Army plans to invest more in the Anniston Army Depot and its fellow facilities — a decision that could stave off layoffs similar to those the Anniston site has endured in recent years.
The Materiel Command oversees the depot, which repairs ground combat vehicles and overhauls firearms for the U.S. Army. The depot has about 2,800 workers and the largest single employer in Calhoun County.
Attempts to reach a representative from the Anniston Army Depot for comment were unsuccessful.
In the article, Via said that despite a slowdown in equipment repair work and manufacturing orders across all 10 of the Army's depots, there are no plans to shut any of them down. The depot has lost hundreds of jobs in recent years due to the ending of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars and budget cuts.
The Army's organic industrial base is a "national asset that we have to have available," Via said. "One of the lessons from the past decade of war is that depots are essential."
Nathan Hill, military liaison for the Calhoun County Chamber of Commerce, said Via's statements were good news for the depot.
"I think Gen. Via is very supportive of the organic base system," Hill said. "My only concern is if the budget continues to go down, the depot's workload could go down."
The article notes that the Army's decision to cut back on purchases of new ground vehicles means there will be a greater need to maintain current equipment for many years — creating a possible influx of new work for the depots.
Depot officials announced in April a new three-year partner contract with defense contractor BAE Systems to upgrade the Army's M109A7 Paladin self-propelled howitzer combat vehicles and companion ammunition carriers. After the three-year contract is finished, a follow-up contract for additional upgrade work could then start and last until 2027, depending on available funding.
Also, the depot is sharing work with defense contractor General Dynamics Land Systems to upgrade Stryker infantry combat vehicles and make them safer from improvised explosive devices. The latest Stryker contract includes the upgrade of 189 vehicles and will last through March 2016.
However, the article noted that though depots could see increases in maintenance work in the coming years, it is unclear if their private partners will also receive more work, too.
Peter Keating, spokesman for General Dynamics, said his company, which employs about 300 people in Anniston, was not concerned that it might lose its partnership with the depot. Keating said General Dynamics has partnered with the depot for decades.
"We have a long history of working with the depot and we don't think that is going to change for us," Keating said.
Staff writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561. On Twitter @PMcCreless_Star.