m113

An Annsiton Army Depot worker repairs an M113 in this file photo. (Bill Wilson/The Anniston Star)

The U.S. Army has a decision to make that will impact Anniston Army Depot’s future one way or another.

The M113 armored personnel carrier has been in operation since the Vietnam War, but the Army stopped buying it almost a decade ago and plans to phase it out and replace it with the Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle, or AMPV.

Deficiencies with the M113 became apparent during the Gulf War. Only able to reach speeds of 37 mph to 45 mph, the M113 was too slow and didn’t have enough armor to stop improvised explosive device attacks.

The phase-out of the old vehicle isn’t in question. The decision the Army has to make is where to repair the new vehicle, The Star’s Tim Lockette reported last week.

Anniston Army Depot currently repairs the M113. That accounts for about 10 percent of the workload at the depot, which is responsible for more than 15,000 jobs.

The new AMPV will be faster than the M113 and have stronger armor that better diverts force from blasts from below. Defense contractor BAE is expected to build more than 300 of them in coming years.

None of those vehicles would be built here, but they could be sent here for repairs if the Army picks Anniston. According to Army documents, they’d come in for their first overhaul in 2033 — and would create 9.5 million hours of work over the following 16 years. While it’s not likely to create new jobs, having the work in Anniston could prevent job loss at the depot.

That’s why Calhoun County officials hope the AMPV repair work comes to Anniston’s depot, but the Army’s decision isn’t a foregone conclusion. At least one other facility — Red River Army Depot near Texarkana, Texas — is in the running to become the repair site and has a few factors working in its favor, including:

• Texarkana sits at the corner where Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana meet. If congressional input plays a role, Red River will have a numbers advantage. According to the Texarkana Gazette, senators from three of the four states already wrote to Materiel Command in July, advocating for repairs to be done at Red River.

• The Army decided to base design of the AMPV on an existing vehicle instead of building a new personnel carrier from scratch. The AMPV is built on a Bradley Fighting Vehicle chassis, and the Bradley is refurbished at Red River.

On the other hand, Anniston Army Depot is not without its own advantages, including:

• Anniston has a relatively new industrial-waste plant that will allow the facility to handle its own waste on site.

• Anniston has extensive experience customizing the Abrams vehicle for specialty roles such as mobile command posts. The AMPV is expected to fill similar roles.

• The AMPV is a tracked vehicle, and the Base Realignment and Closure Commissions in 1995 and 2005 recommended that all tracked vehicle maintenance be done in Anniston.

Anniston depot officials wouldn’t comment on the selection process, or on projections of how many jobs could be won or lost. But Nathan Hill, military liaison for the Calhoun County Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber is strongly advocating for the repair work to be done at Anniston. “What we don’t want to see is the depot getting left behind in a new phase of modernization,” he said.

The Army’s Materiel Command is expected to review possible locations on Sept. 30 and submit a recommendation to the Pentagon by mid-November. The Pentagon is expected to announce its decision in 2019.

While we might be outnumbered in congressional input, we’re not outweighed. Congressman Mike Rogers, R-Saks, is a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee, and Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Tuscaloosa, is chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. The Army’s assignments mean nothing without financial appropriations.

We encourage our delegation to fully employ its influence with Army Materiel Command officials and strongly express the importance of having the AMPV repairs done at Anniston Army Depot.

Time is of the essence.

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