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Ohio tank plant stays open under new plan

TOLEDO, Ohio — A new defense spending plan will keep the nation’s only tank manufacturing plant operating through the next two years, ending months of worry about the future of the factory where about 800 workers refurbish the Abrams tanks.

Funding for tank upgrades has been on the chopping block the past two years and the debate over the potential cuts backed by the White House entered into the presidential campaign this past fall.

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But last week President Obama signed off on a defense bill that includes $136 million to maintain minimal production at the plant in Lima, which is 80 miles south of Toledo.

The Pentagon had wanted to halt production at the plant, saying it would soon have enough tanks and could restart the plant in a few years when it was ready for the next generation of battle tanks.

Some members of Congress from Ohio, mostly Republicans, fought to restore funding for the tanks against White House opposition, arguing that shutting down the plant and then restarting it would be more expensive than keeping production going. The Army disputed that.

The possible shutdown came up during the campaign when Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan visited Lima in September.

He warned that Americans could be put at risk overseas by the Obama administration’s plan to halt production of the tanks.

General Dynamics Corp.’s land systems unit, which operates the government-owned plant, said it is too early to speculate about the impact on jobs beyond the next two years, but added that the funding indicates support for continued production.

General Dynamics also hopes that increased foreign sales will help the plant make up for the minimal funding from the military.

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