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In response to Shuster, Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.), a top appropriator, said, "We are pleased to work closely with members of the army depot and arsenal delegation throughout the conference proceedings to ensure their concerns are fully addressed and the necessary adjustments to depot and arsenal funding are made."
But despite the letter and a floor debate over the issue, Barletta said in an Aug. 3 statement that he was never aware of the cuts in the bill because of an "accounting error."
"After the defense spending bill was overwhelmingly passed in a bipartisan vote, it was discovered that the authors of the bill based their recommendations on an accounting error," Barletta said in the statement.
Barletta spokeswoman Renita Fennick conceded that concerns were raised about devastating cuts to Army depots before the vote. But she said those concerns raised "did not specifically include Tobyhanna" depot, the Army depot of concern to Barletta's constituents.
"Rep. Barletta's vote was based on assurances by the House Army Liaison's Office that funding levels contained in the overall bill would not impact the workforce at Tobyhanna," Fennick said. "It was not until after the bill's passage that Rep. Barletta was informed that the previous assurances regarding Tobyhanna may have been in error."
Barletta's Democratic challenger, Gene Stilp, is also criticizing the Member for his "slipshod way of voting," according to the Wilkes-Barre Times-Leader.
Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) has been working to address the issue and ensure that were the Senate Appropriations Committee to pass a defense spending bill, it would not include the cuts in the House bill for arsenals and depots.
The Defense Department told Casey's office that the cuts could result in 3,000 layoffs nationwide, his spokeswoman said.
"As you know, when talented workers are laid off, they do not wait for their employers to rehire them. If these highly skilled workers fail to return, depots will spend more money training a new workforce and restarting production lines than the savings envisioned by these cuts," Casey said in a July 26 letter.
Beyond Pennsylvania, the cuts would hit depots in Anniston, Ala.; Corpus Christi, Texas; and Red River, Texas, according to a list provided by a Congressional source.
Arsenals on the chopping block include the Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey, the Redstone Arsenal in Alabama, the Rock Island Arsenal in Illinois, the Rocky Mountain Arsenal in Colorado and the Watervliet Arsenal in New York.
Based on a review of local newspapers in those locations, the issue has not yet attracted scrutiny in those places as it has in Pennsylvania.