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Sen. Jim Inhofe, of Oklahoma, warns defense bill could threaten work at military depots

Last-minute changes could affect delicate balance struck between maintenance work done by military and private contractors, senators say.
BY CHRIS CASTEEL Published: December 16, 2011

Sen. Jim Inhofe warned Thursday that the sensitive balance between military and private contractor work could be disrupted at repair depots, such as the one at Tinker Air Force Base, because of last-minute changes to the 2012 defense bill.

Inhofe, R-Tulsa, and several of his colleagues took to the Senate floor on Thursday to complain that the bill had been changed by the U.S. House without notice to the senators who were involved in writing the legislation.

Inhofe said the changes go to the heart of a federal law aimed at preserving a certain amount of maintenance work at military depots like the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Center. He said his concerns extended to the McAlester Army Ammunition Plant.

Inhofe fought hard more than a decade ago to ensure work that was essential to military readiness — so-called “core” work — not be given to private contractors.

Now, he said, the provisions in the defense bill “may change how core depot workload is defined and executed at all (Defense Department) depots, shipyards and arsenals, as well as our industrial base.”

Lawmakers who have military depots in their states have long been protective of their workload, as private defense contractors have sought to capture more of it for themselves.

Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the bill gives the defense secretary the power to waive the requirements that “core” work be done at military depots.

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