Posted: Feb 19, 2013 10:55 AM by Lee Sausley
Updated: Feb 19, 2013 11:01 AM
CORPUS CHRISTI - If Congress and the White House can't resolve the current budget fight, deep, automatic spending cuts called 'sequestration' go into effect next month. The Pentagon would have to cut $46 billion worth of spending in just 7 months. That could affect every military installation in the country, including those here in South Texas.
The Pentagon has warned for months that those automatic spending cuts could mean furloughs, or layoffs for many of the nation's 800,000 defense workers. In fact, the Army has already started cutting back. Civilian hires have been frozen and 31-hundred contract workers will be let go. Workloads will also be reduced at the Army's network of depots across the country.
The Red River Army Depot near Texarkana, which repairs ground vehicles everything from trucks to tanks, has already laid off more than 300 workers. The Letterkenny Army Depot in Pennsylvania, which rebuilds patriot missile systems, will let nearly 250 contractor employees go by April. Hopefully, there won't be any layoffs here in Corpus Christi.
Doing more with less will be the new normal for defense spending in the 21st century. It just so happens the new mantra at the Corpus Christi Army Depot is better, faster, and more cost-effective without sacrificing quality.
A prime example is the depot's program to rebuild UH-60 Blackhawks. The large helicopters have been the workhorses of Army aviation for 30 years. But the Army only has a limited number of them and after a decade of combat they've been flown longer and harder than they were ever expected to. By the time they make it to CCAD they're pretty much junk.
After the depot's trained artisans restore and modify one it's better than a new one.
"It is better than new, in fact the pilots actually believe that it's better than new and they would prefer to fly the product we put out at the Corpus Christi Army Depot, than pull one off the assembly line..so we're proud of that," says Roy Hollins, Director of Aircraft Production.
They're also proud of how much they save taxpayers. A brand new Blackhawk costs the military $18 million. The folks at CCAD can rebuild a wreck, again to better than new, for just $6.3 million.
"So everytime we do one of these we save the taxpayers $12 million because the Army didn't have to buy one. We made one for them," says Hollins.
In fact, Colonel Christopher Carlile, the commander of CCAD, says his people made the Army 50 blackhawks in 2012 at a huge savings to the Army and the taxpayers. He believes that commitment to excellence and cost control has helped position CCAD to ride out the coming budget storms.
Colonel Carlile says his crews roll a Blackhawk off the line every 7 days. "however, I can change that to one every 8 days and pretty much that takes care of just about what I might have to take out of the budget over the next year. Does anybody lose their job? Nope. Do we produce as many? Nope. But I can also tell you that I have many foreign military governments as well as the State Department and others who've been wanting us to do work for them. We just haven't had the capacity to do."
Folks who work at CCAD credit Colonel Carlile with basically re-inventing the depot over the past 2 years.
In part two of our report this evening, we'll take a look at how he's turned a little south Texas depot into a blueprint for america's defense spending in the 21st century.
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