Amarillo, TX - Defense spending cuts continue to be a concern for Pantex and Bell Helicopter, which is why area Congressman Mac Thornberry spent Monday promoting the Panhandle's contributions to national security.
Thornberry invited U.S. House of Representatives Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy to visit Pantex and Bell with him. His goal was to show him what the two companies do for our country.
McCarthy is the second highest ranked Republican in the House. This means he is a key player when it comes to passing legislation, like defense spending that directly impacts Pantex and Bell.
"I always knew it was important, but when you step on the ground and you walk through Pantex and you walk through Bell, this is critical for America to stay strong," said McCarthy after his visit to both facilities.
Defense cuts have caused Bell to layoff more than 100 local employees since last October. Thornberry said stabilizing the defense budget is key to maintaining jobs. "When Washington budgets change drastically, obviously that has an impact on jobs," said Thornberry. "One of the things the Majority Leader is trying to do is provide some budget stability so companies like Bell know how much money they have to work with."
Despite cuts, Bell CEO John Garrison said more production is coming to Amarillo within the next couple years. New local programs involving the 525 Relentless and the V-280 Valor will add jobs, but it could be a couple years before that happens. "Right now, we think we're staffed appropriately," said Garrison. "There will be some incremental heads as the work comes on. As Congressman Thornberry said, it's having that stability in the budget process so that we know what the military side is."
Thornberry also visited Pantex as the strike involving more than 1,100 metal trades workers enters its third week. He said he wants to see the strike end as soon as possible, but cannot get involved. "Any time you get into a negotiation, it is not appropriate for Congress to take sides or try to influence one side or the other. They have got to work this out because both the DOE and the workers need to feel satisfied with the resolution so they can get back to work and have their full attention on this vital mission."
Thornberry said he encourages the strikers to take their benefits concerns directly to the Department of Energy.