Maine Military Authority awaits verdict on $20 million

15 years ago
By Natalie Bazinet
Staff Writer

    LIMESTONE —The support of Congressman Mike Michaud, Congresswoman Chellie Pingree and Senators Snowe and Collins has given hope to Maine Military Authority (MMA) workers; on July 23, Congressman Michaud announced that the House FY 2010 Defense Appropriations bill contained a total of $50 million for Humvee maintenance performed at the Army National Guard Readiness Sustainment Maintenance Site (RSMS) located at the Loring Commerce Center in Limestone; the President’s budget calls for decreased funding for RSMS, (a $20 million budget cut for the MMA) which could negatively affect jobs to the tune of 175 employees at MMA if additional funding is not secured.

ImageAroostook Republican photo/Natalie Bazinet
    Mechanic Scott Patten is one of approximately 360 employees working at the Maine Military Authority. Due to budget cuts, roughly 175 full time positions at MMA will be cut by Sept. 30 unless additional funding is obtained.

    The $50 million funding represents a $20 million increase in funding from the $30 million originally budgeted for the Loring facility, where the Maine Military Authority (MMA) refurbishes vehicles for the Army National Guard.
    “This funding will help ease the projected economic hardships in a region already suffering form the recession,” Michaud said. “It will also ensure the delivery of quality fighting vehicles for the National Guard and ensure the viability of an extraordinary team of craftsmen and cost-efficient production facility.”
    “The men and women in Limestone consistently exceed the National Guard’s expectations for quality and efficiency, so this is a wise investment for the Guard and will save jobs here in Maine,” Pingree said. “This is a win-win situation.”
    While funding has been included in the House FY 2010 Defense Appropriations bill, Michaud cautioned that it still must pass both the House and Senate, and be retained in a conference on the legislation.
    “This funding is a positive step forward but certainly not the end of the road in our efforts to save these jobs in Limestone,” Michaud said. “It offers hope that we can retain or even increase this funding in the future as the bill continues through the legislative process.”
    The House is expected to vote on the FY 2010 Defense Appropriations bill next week.
    Sens. Snowe and Collins as well as Congressman Michaud and Congresswoman Pingree wrote letters supporting the MMA.
    “For nearly 13 years, the Army National Guard has relied on its Readiness Sustainment Maintenance Site at Limestone to provide a dependable service to the warfighters. Similarly, MMS has been a source of economic stability for Northern Maine,” Sens. Snowe and Collins wrote in a letter to Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) and Vice Chairman Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense. “By appropriating a total of $67.5 million for Fiscal year 2010 for the Limestone RSMS, this important resource of both the National Guard and the state of Maine can be safeguarded from the continuing uncertainties of these economic times, and ensure that MMA’s valued workforce and valued product remain available for the requirements of our service members.”
    According to the same letter by Sens. Snowe and Collins, labor hours on Humvees at MMA has decreased in the last three years from 380 hours per vehicle to 250 hours per vehicle — a reduction of over 34 percent — and MMA’s warranty rate at only 2.69 percent.
    The letter also discussed implications of cutting production by more than half at MMA.
    “First, and most importantly, the National Guard facility would have to lay off as many as 175 full-time employees by Sept. 30, 2009, from a team that totals 380 employees today. Second, the reductions would significantly degrade MMA’s procurement methods, production line setup, inventory system, and productions techniques,” the senators wrote.
    “The Nearly 50 percent cut in the MMA workforce that would result form the planned fiscal year 2010 budget would be as devastating to the regional economy as it would be to the capabilities of the National Guard facility. The residents of Aroostook County from which MMA draws its proud and dedicated team members are facing enormous hardships from the historic economic recession,” they added. “Since December 2007, over 1,100 jobs have been eliminated in this region of northern Maine, driving the unemployment rate to 11.3 percent, which is well above the national unemployment rate of 9.5 percent. Eliminating 175 jobs at MMA would increase employment losses in Aroostook County by another 15 percent, exacerbating the impact of the recession and greatly prolonging any chance for meaningful recovery in this rural area of the United States.”