LIMESTONE, Maine — Less than a week after their visit to Maine Military Authority, top Army and National Guard leaders on Thursday were praising the work being performed at the facility and pledged to Sen. Susan Collins that they are looking for new opportunities to sustain the workload at the Limestone complex.
Major Gen. Raymond Carpenter, acting director of the National Guard, testified Thursday in Washington before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction and Veteran Affairs, of which Collins is a member.
“Our effort here is to be a good steward of the taxpayer dollar, and what we get from the MMA is absolutely a top product for a very good price,” Carpenter told the subcommittee. “It only makes sense for us, to the extent that we can, to utilize that particular effort up there and to maximize the capacity.”
The Maine Military Authority employs 370 workers who refurbish vehicles for the Army National Guard. At this point, MMA has refurbished nearly 10,000 Humvees for the National Guard in its 400,000 square feet of industrial space.
The Republican senator was joined last Friday afternoon by several top Army procurement officials from Washington, D.C., on a tour of the Limestone facility. After the tour a closed-door meeting was held.
The tour came after Collins secured an assurance from Dr. Joseph Westphal, undersecretary of the Army, to send representatives to Aroostook County to explore options for new work at Maine Military Authority. Because of federal cuts and the downturn in the economy, MMA has not secured as many National Guard contracts as in past years.
Officials at MMA have been aware of the decreased workload for some time and have been trying to find other types of work to replace what has been lost from the Guard. Collins, who has been working to assist MMA in its effort, wanted to bring officials from Washington to MMA so they could get “a better understanding of the work that goes on” in Limestone.
Carpenter joined Collins on last week’s tour. He acknowledged that MMA has a “tremendous reputation,” adding that the National Guard is assessing its equipment needs and is aiming “to get the best product for the best price.”
Army Brig. Gen. James Boozer, director of operations, Office of the Assistant Chief of Staff for Installation Management, also testified before the committee. He told Collins he was impressed with the feedback he received from his installation management team that accompanied her on last week’s visit.
Collins asked Boozer during the hearing whether the Army was working to identify opportunities where MMA might be able to assist it.
Boozer said the Army is in discussions with MMA about potential to compete in its wheel assembly program, adding that “it looks like there may be a possibility of funneling some of our nontactical fleet to the MMA — specifically our firefighting equipment that is in dire need of refurbishment.”
Collins said it was evident last week’s tour had been successful.
“It is clear that both the National Guard and the Army recognize that MMA has proven that it can provide well-respected, quality and dependable service to its customers,” said Collins, adding that she would welcome a visit by Boozer in the future.
“I am confident that we can work together to identify opportunities to sustain work at MMA, and I am hopeful that this will help sustain the good jobs at this important industrial facility,” Collins said Thursday.
Officials at MMA were not available for comment Thursday evening.
Collins has worked on behalf of the facility before. Last year, the senator worked with other members of the delegation to secure $20 million in a defense spending bill to sustain jobs at MMA.