The Army is slightly behind schedule in rendering a crucial decision on its latest armored vehicle, and that may be good news for Anniston, a local official says.
“If it comes late, that can only mean they’re vetting it the way they should,” said Nathan Hill, the military liaison for the Calhoun County Chamber of Commerce.
For months, Hill has been lobbying to get Anniston Army Depot named as the main repair site for the Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle, a newly-created armored personnel carrier that the Department of Defense expects to begin buying in 2019.
The AMPV, as it’s also known, would gradually replace the M113, an armored vehicle that has been a workhorse for the Army since the 1960s. Critics have described the M113 as under-armored and slow; as early as the 1991 Gulf War, officials complained that it couldn’t keep pace with a then-new, faster generation of tanks.
While the M113 isn’t a household name outside Army circles, it’s a big deal at Anniston Army Depot, where the Pentagon sends tanks and small arms for repairs and refurbishment. By Hill’s estimate, about 10 percent of the depot’s work comes from the M113.
Becoming the repair for the new AMPV could provide new jobs for the depot into the 2040s. Still, Anniston has competition from Red River Army Depot near Texarkana, Texas, the other top contender for the depot slot.
According to an Army document obtained by The Star earlier this year, the Army was scheduled to send its recommendation for the depot site to the Pentagon on Nov. 15, with a plan for the Pentagon to announce a final decision in 2019. Hill said this week that the recommendation has yet to be sent.
“The last thing I heard was that it was coming by the end of November, which could be this week,” Hill said.
Army officials are typically tight-lipped about such decisions, and attempts to reach Army Materiel Command officials for a comment were unsuccessful Wednesday. Hill said his information came from Alabama’s congressional delegation, which has been working with Hill on the matter.
Attempts to reach Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Tuscaloosa, and Sen. Doug Jones, D-Birmingham, were unsuccessful Wednesday.
In a prepared statement, Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Anniston, indicated Wednesday that he had no new word on the decision.
“While we are still waiting on the Army to make a decision, I am continuing to actively press the Army that the Anniston Army Depot is the best option for the AMPV,” Rogers’ statement read.
Hill said a delay in the decision would likely be a good sign for Anniston.
The AMPV is built on the same chassis as the Bradley Fighting Vehicle, which is maintained at Red River. Red River also likely has a larger congressional contingent fighting for it, because that depot is near the corner of four states – Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Arkansas.
Hill said he’s been asking the DOD to consider other factors, such as a 1995 base realignment law that specifies the Bradley as the only tracked vehicle Red River works on. Hill said the AMPV shouldn’t count as a Bradley under the law.
“It’s not a fighting vehicle, it’s a personnel carrier,” he said.
In Texarkana, officials are also anxiously awaiting a decision, but with few indications of when that decision will be announced.
“We have not heard any new information about it,” said Mike Malone, of the Texarkana Chamber of commerce.
Hill said he expects a final announcement in January.