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L-3 could get millions to maintain surveillance planes

Mike Copeland / Waco Tribune Herald | September 28 2006

A Homeland Security appropriations bill contains $70 million to keep surveillance planes flying, and much of that money could end up at L-3 Communications in Waco.

U.S. Rep. Chet Edwards, D-Waco, announced this week that the final appropriations bill for 2007 contains $70 million for the service life extension program, or SLEP, that calls for maintenance of P-3 planes.

The planes are used by U.S. Customs and Border Protection to protect the nation's borders from potential terrorists and major drug dealers.

A contract remains to be awarded for this work, but Edwards thinks he knows who will get it.

“Since L-3 Waco has been the prime contractor on this program, which I funded last year, I believe L-3 will most likely receive a significant amount of the $70 million,” he said.

The L-3 plant is Waco's largest industrial employer, with about 1,625 people working there.

“We have a number of P-3 planes in here on a rotating basis,” said Lance Martin, spokesman for the massive plant at Texas State Technical College airport.

Last year, Edwards helped get $16 million added to the Homeland Security budget to have work done on these planes.

Martin said the Waco plant performs heavy maintenance on these planes in conjunction with a sister plant in Mississippi.

“We have done a great amount of work on P-3 planes and hope to be considered for more,” Martin said.

The House and Senate must pass the final bill before it goes to President Bush for his signature.


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