Letterkenny Army Depot gets $16M for expansion

By Jim Hook

jhook@publicopinionnews.com @JimHookPO on Twitter

UPDATED:   12/06/2014 06:47:39 PM EST

CHAMBERSBURG>> Letterkenny Army Depot is in line to receive $16 million from the 2015 Defense Authorization bill to expand one of its main shops.

Four Pennsylvania projects are listed on the nation’s 2015 military construction budget. Worth more than $60 million, they support military operations from drones to nuclear submarines.

The House passed the National Defense Authorization Act on Thursday with and the Senate is expected to do the same next week.

Letterkenny’s Building 350 would grow by about an acre, slightly less than the area of a football field. Traditionally known as the vehicle shop, Building 350 is one of the three large industrial buildings on depot. The military construction budget refers to it as a “rebuild” shop.

“This is a big deal,” said L. Michael Ross, chairman of Team Letterkenny and president of the Franklin County Area Development Corp. “Anytime you have construction on the depot, it’s an investment to enhance the military value of the depot. Not that a BRAC is imminent, but it further helps to insulate us” from action by a base realignment and closure commission.

Letterkenny and its tenants employ 3,567 people, making the installation the largest employer in Franklin County. Its fortunes have waxed and waned with the decisions of previous BRACs.

Language in the 2015 Defense authorization act rejects the Obama administration’s request for a BRAC in 2017: “Nothing in this Act shall be construed to authorize an additional Base Realignment and Closure.”

A largely bipartisan House vote, 300-119, approved the $585 billion Defense authorization bill, which is $48 billion less than last year’s version. The House and Senate Armed Services committees negotiated for weeks to come up with the compromise. The Senate is expected to approve the measure next week before the end of the lame-duck session.

U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Hollidaysburg, and his staff could not be reached for comment on Friday. The office voice message system in Washington, D.C., was full. Shuster represents Franklin County and is a member of the House Armed Services Committee.

A spokesman for Sen. Bob Casey, R-Pa., also did not respond.

A spokesman for Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., said the shop “provides maintenance on military equipment” and referred a reporter to Letterkenny Army Depot for details.

“The project will create about 45,000 square feet to relocate the metal treatment operations in Building 350 so that production lines can be improved,” Letterkenny spokeswoman Janet S. Gardner said.

The design is underway, and a construction contract is expected to be awarded before October, she said.

Letterkenny got military construction funds less than a decade ago. In the fiscal 2009 Defense authorization act, Letterkenny got $14.9 million to build an Army reserve center and $7.5 million for wider doors on ammunition storage igloos.

The 2015 Defense Authorization Act would fund projects elsewhere in Pennsylvania:

  • $24 million for construction or land acquisition for the Ohio-Replacement Power & Propulsion Facility in Philadelphia as part of the Navy’s program to build a new class of nuclear submarines equipped with nuclear missiles.
  • $5.7 million for construction of a Remotely Piloted Aircraft Operations Center at the Horsham Air National Guard Station in Willow Grove.
  • $17.7 million for construction of a Marine Corps Reserve Training Center in Pittsburgh.

Jim Hook can be reached at 262-4759.