The Kingdom of Morocco has requested the enhancement and refurbishment of 200 M1A1 tanks to M1A1 Special Armor configuration. According to a June 18 release from the Defense Security Cooperation Agency of the U.S. Department of Defense, that sale, along with radio systems, machine guns and ammunition, smoke grenade launchers, support equipment, spare and repair parts and personnel training would bring in $1.02 billion.
The refurbishment work, if approved, will be done at the Anniston Army Depot and the Joint Systems Manufacturing Center in Lima, Ohio.
Paul Ebner, public affairs officer for the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, said the release signaled the beginning of a 30-day formal notification period to Congress, which has until July 17 to pass a resolution denying the sale.
Once that deadline passes, the agency will be able to finalize the deal.
Because some of the work on the tanks would be done at the Anniston Army Depot, it could temporarily save the jobs of employees who were scheduled to be laid off, said Shrene Funderburg, president of the American Federation of Government Employees Local 1945.
“We’ve gotten some new work that will allow us to keep them on until possibly next October (2013),” Funderburg said.
The depot announced in January that nearly 500 temporary and term employees — those hired for a limited time of between one and four years — would be laid off by Sept. 30 as a result of declining demand for the equipment the depot maintains. Although she was unsure of the exact number, Funderburg said about 100 workers have already been laid off. But the remainder will stay on as foreign sales increase demand for the equipment, she said.
Nathan Hill, military liaison for the Calhoun Chamber of Commerce, said the international sales such as ones to Egypt, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Morocco are filling in a gap left by reduced U.S. demand for military equipment as the country pulls out of Iraq and Afghanistan.
“There’s still tank work out there, outside the U.S. budget,” Hill said. “It would certainly cushion the blow.”
But the increase in Anniston may only be temporary, Hill added.
“It may mean that some of these people would be able to keep their jobs for a longer period of time to meet some of these add-on requirements,” Hill said. “But the workload overall is going to be coming down which means that most of those people — I hope not — but most of those people probably are going to be terminated at a later date.”
The proposed sale is also in line with U.S. foreign policy, according the release.
“These tanks will contribute to Morocco’s goal of updating its military capability while further enhancing interoperability with the U.S. and other allies,” the release states.
Ebner said foreign sales are one way the country maintains partnerships with its allies.
“We don’t just sell the tank or the weapon or the parts, we sell everything that goes with it, so that develops a relationship,” Ebner said. “In the case of a major system like an armored personnel carrier or an aircraft or something like that, you’re talking about 15 or 20 years at least for the lifetime of that item where that relationship will continue.”