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The Birmingham News February 03, 2005

Defense cuts could cost work in Troy

By Mary Orndorff

WASHINGTON - The Pentagon should reverse its plan to cancel work on a new air-to-ground missile, according to Alabama officials who complained Wednesday because some of the work was planned for the Lockheed Martin facility in Troy.

Canceling the Joint Common Missile program would save more than $2.3 billion over six years, according to the budget proposal discussed within the Pentagon. Final details of President Bush's 2006 budget will be released on Monday, but Alabama's congressional delegation protested the possible cut in a letter Wednesday to Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz.

"The Joint Common Missile program is a low-risk, high-return system that must, without delay, be continued and restored to full authority," six members of the delegation wrote in a letter provided by Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala.

The Joint Common Missile contract was awarded last May to Lockheed Martin and would have eventually replaced Hellfire II, Longbow and Maverick missiles. The weapon was to be used jointly by the Army, Navy and Marine Corps, and development and production work was expected to be shared between Lockheed Martin sites in Alabama and Florida.

The $1.6 billion contract over four years was for development and two production batches or as many as 2,700 of 55,000 missiles, according to globalsecurity.org, the online site for military and defense analysts. The program could be worth as much as $5.5 billion over 20 years, company officials estimated when the contract was awarded.

In early stages:

The project was still in early stages in Troy. By canceling it, the Pentagon is "ignoring the cost and performance benefits of an advanced missile system that meets current and future requirements for multiple services," according to the Alabama senators and congressmen.

The letter called the JCM a leap in war-fighting capability and a prime example of different services working together.

Sen. Jeff Sessions, Rep. Terry Everett, Rep. Bud Cramer, Rep. Robert Aderholt and Rep. Mike Rogers also signed the letter.

Copyright 2005, The Birmingham News