U.S. Sen. Bob Casey announced concerns Thursday about a defense bill recently passed by the House of Representatives that includes a provision he says could dramatically affect operations and prompt layoffs at Letterkenny Army Depot north of Chambersburg.
“The House bill would cut more than $2 billion from various depot accounts, essentially preventing Pennsylvania’s depots from continuing to upgrade equipment currently in use by service members around the world,” Casey, D-Pa., said in a news release.
Casey said the bill passed May 17 would “effectively zero out funding for maintenance and repair activities performed by Tobyhanna and Letterkenny depots.”
Tobyhanna Army Depot is in northeastern Pennsylvania.
Letterkenny Army Depot is the largest employer in Franklin County, Pa., with 2,908 people in its government, contracted and military operations.
“The Tobyhanna and Letterkenny Army Depots are major employers in Pennsylvania and a key part of our national security strategy, so it’s essential that this funding be restored. Zeroing out these maintenance and repair funds will endanger the vital work Pennsylvania’s Army depots perform for the nation; therefore, I’m urging the Senate to immediately reject the House proposal,” Casey said in the news release.
A spokeswoman for U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa., said the congressman is confident the issue will be resolved.
“It’s very early in the process,” Gretchen Gailey said.
Shuster voted in favor of the defense funding bill on the condition the matter with the depots could be resolved in conference committee, she said.
In letters they wrote, Casey and Shuster referred to Army data indicating the funding reductions could lead to 3,000 layoffs nationwide.
Talks have occurred among House members with depots in their districts; Casey; Pennsylvania’s other U.S. senator, Pat Toomey; and officials from Letterkenny Army Depot and Franklin County Area Development Corp., according to Gailey.
After a floor speech from Shuster on the matter, U.S. Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-N.J., of the House Appropriations Committee, said the concerns will be fully addressed in conference proceedings.
“Ultimately, we believe this legislation as it currently stands will cripple the ability of depots and arsenals to support our soldiers during a time of war,” Shuster said while reading a letter in the floor speech, according to the Congressional Record.
“Our depots and arsenals provide the best product to service members for the best cost to the taxpayer and it is absolutely necessary that we protect this cornerstone of our military,” the letter stated.
In their own letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee, six senators, including Casey, wrote that the issue could “impact the viability of our Army depots and arsenals in the coming years.” The letter said it could affect operations and equipment readiness of high-priority systems for war-fighting.
“The House bill cites ‘excessive levels of funding carryover at Army depots’ as their basis for reducing the funding in each of these accounts. However, it is our understanding that the Army depots are, in fact, in their usual range of carryover,” the senators wrote in the letter, a copy of which was posted on Casey’s website.