The U.S. Congress on Wednesday released a conference report on the national defense bill that includes authorizations for Bradley Fighting Vehicles.

That's good news for BAE's West Manchester Township facility, where the vehicles are built and refurbished.

"This is a step in the right direction for the Bradley tank, and I'll continue to push Congress and the (Obama) administration to move this forward," U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., said Wednesday.

A bipartisan effort to keep Bradleys in production and protect hundreds of York County jobs was approved by the Senate earlier this month.

But help for BAE actually began in late March, when House Bill 4310 was crafted to add $140 million to the National Defense Authorization Act to keep Bradleys in production.

President Barack Obama's fiscal year 2013 budget outlines a production break for the Army vehicles, beginning in 2014 and possibly extending through 2017.

At stake: A production break would mean the loss of hundreds of jobs at BAE and $60 million less in the local economy, lawmakers said.

"If we don't continue the Bradley program, we will lose a skilled labor force," said U.S. Rep. Todd Platts, R-York County.

Platts visited BAE, which employs about 1,250 local workers, several times during his service in both the state House and U.S. Congress.

It was clear at those visits -- and especially during the trips Platts took to visit troops in the Middle East -- that the Bradleys are important, he said.


Army officials agreed Bradleys remain important to their operations.

"The Bradley is the Army's lone heavy armored, tracked, infantry fighting vehicle. It provides protected transport of an infantry squad to critical points on the battlefield," said Ashley Givens, spokeswoman for the Army's PEO Ground Combat Systems.

Mission: Bradleys serve four mission roles for the troops: infantry fighting vehicle, cavalry fighting vehicle, fire support vehicle and engineer squad vehicle.

Even though the wars are

winding down, Bradleys are still needed by the Army, according to Lt. Col. Glenn Dean, the Army's product manager for Bradley.

"The Bradley remains a very relevant vehicle for the Army, so much so that the Army is currently planning two modernization programs for the Bradley," he said.

To replace its current fleet, the Army intends to buy 580 new Paladin PIM sets, technology systems built at BAE's local facility that are designed to enhance combat survivability, Givens said.

Platts said he and fellow committee members recognized the importance of continuing the Bradley program and recommended House Bill 4310 for a vote; it passed the House in May.

In the Senate: The House bill he voted for also passed the Senate on Dec. 4 among other legislation within the National Defense Authorization Act.

Included in the act recently passed by the Senate was the Bradley Fighting Vehicle amendment.

Introduced by U.S. Sens. Casey and Pat Toomey, R-Pa., the amendment will help prevent the production break by requiring the Army secretary to conduct a study, determining the impact of a production break.

Toomey said he's not convinced the Department of Defense thoroughly looked at the implications of a production break.

"In the interim we could lose skills, talent and knowledge in the local work force, and it's very hard to rebuild that," he said.

-- Candy Woodall can also be reached at