Officials are predicting the depot will see around 4.2 million manpower-hours of work next year, Sessions said. But prior estimates had put production levels as low as 3 million manpower hours in 2013.
Depot leaders attribute the rise in expected work to new projects won in the past eight months.
“We need to be competitive,” Sessions said of depot production levels. “We need to have the most productive depot that we can possibly have.”
Mike Burke, deputy to the commander, said in an email “a large part” of the new work is from contracts with the Army Reserve, the National Guard and foreign military sales. But officials today did not provide comments on specific details about those new projects, except to say that at least one anticipated international contract did not happen. The Kingdom of Morocco had requested the enhancement and refurbishment of 200 M1A1 tanks to M1A1 Special Armor configuration, but that $1.02 billion sale – which needed approval from Congress in July – didn’t go through. It’s still a possibility it could get approved at a later date, Burke said.
The senator acknowledged the somewhat difficult times that have befallen the installation, which refurbishes and performs maintenance on combat vehicles, artillery, bridging system and small caliber weapons. The draw-down of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan coupled with looming $500 billion cuts in defense spending over the next 10 years has put the depot and other military support installations in precarious situations.
Sessions, for one, does not want to see those defense cuts come to fruition. They were passed last year under the Budget Control Act, last-ditch legislation mandating tough cuts when GOP and Democrat lawmakers couldn’t compromise about how to reduce the nation’s deficit.
In January, depot officials announced the layoffs of 562 short-term workers once their temporary contracts expired in September. But two months ago, amid general announcements of “projected workload changes” for fiscal 2013, installation leaders amended that number, saying 386 of the temporary employees would have their jobs at least through March.
“We are continuously looking for ways to become more efficient which drives down our costs and helps compete for additional workload,” Burke said in the email today. “At the same time we are concerned about the potential impacts due to future budget cuts.”
At its peak during the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, depot manpower hours reached as high as 5.5 million. Now, city and installation officials are working to keep production levels above a minimum of 3.5 million hours.
During his 7:30 a.m. speech, Sessions briefly highlighted the importance of foreign military sales: Although a small percentage of the organization’s overall workload, over the past year, the depot has won international contracts with Iraq, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
“It’s a big concern,” Sessions said, discussing production levels in a brief question-and-answer session with media after his talk. “We’ve been very engaged in working with the depot.”
Staff writer Cameron Steele: 256-235-3562. On Twitter @CSteele_star.