Originally created 11/18/99

Congress members push to keep plant open



ATLANTA -- Georgia's congressional delegation is supporting a plan that would give Lockheed Martin Corp. a down payment on future cargo plane orders to keep the company from shutting down its Marietta plant.

The plan would stabilize the production of the C-130J cargo plane until 2002, when the Air Force is expected to buy at least 150 of the $50 million planes, members of the delegation said. There were reports last week that Lockheed is considering closing the Marietta plant because of a lack of orders.

The plan, called an Economic Order Quantity, would give the defense contractor $150 million before the order is placed to keep the cargo plane production line open, said Sen. Paul Coverdell, R-Ga.

"This is putting a down payment down to make sure that this center of intelligence and capacity is there to build the plane that the Air Force wants," Mr. Coverdell told [as]The Atlanta Journal-Constitution[xs] in an interview published Wednesday. "If you jeopardize the line, you jeopardize the aircraft."

Air Force Secretary Whitten Peters presented Mr. Coverdell and other members of the Georgia delegation with the proposal in August, after he sent a team to Marietta to assess how many planes needed to be in production to keep the C-130 line open.

Such a plan is similar to the way the government pays farmers not to harvest certain crops. But this plan would allow Lockheed to begin work on two aircraft for the Air Force before the military actually places its order.

The Air Force is considering the plan as it drafts its budget for 2001.

"It is certainly not a handout," said Jim Grant, Lockheed's director of government acquirement. "The $150 million in fact puts us to work. It gives us the opportunity to build planes a little earlier."

The Air Force estimates that if the plant is shut down, it would cost about $680 million to reopen the facility. Congressional documents show the price of future plans also would be affected, rising to as much as $70 million.

"If you chopped Marietta, you'd have to recreate it and that would be next to impossible," said Sen. Max Cleland, D-Ga.