Defense Secretary recommends canning Elgin cannon

Elgin_After weeks of speculation, the cancellation of an advanced cannon to be built in Elgin is confirmed. U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates recommended the Non-Line-of-Sight cannon--or NLOS--project be scrapped. The cannon was set to be assembled in Elgin by BAE Systems.

Mayor Larry Thoma said he expected this decision for a few days, but it doesn't soften the blow.  "We're disappointed," Thoma said.  "We'd had high hopes it'd come to fruition and it's not going to."

The NLOS cannons meant new jobs in Elgin.  Those are now scrapped, and Thoma says that's not the only negative of canning the cannons. "It's a detriment to the Army.  Their systems are old and by doing so, they've taken a useful tool away from the United States Army.  Our Army deserves better, and so it's a disappointment."

The cannons were part of a Future Combat Systems program, supported by Senator Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, a senior member of the Senate Armed Service Committee.  Inhofe is visiting troops in Afghanistan, but uploaded a video statement to youtube.

In the video, Inhofe said "I can't believe what we heard today.  Here we are in Afghanistan. Right now, we have our men and women in uniform in harm's way, and we hear an announcement we're cutting, and I would say gutting, our military." Inhofe said he will work to stop these cuts, saying "the Obama administration has put forth a budget to disarm America."  He says  Congress cannot, and must not simply go along. "This is unprecedented for our country.  You would think right now at a time of war, that we're cutting the military budget.  It's going to be a very difficult thing to do.  We're increasing the surge in Afghanistan, right here, the numbers are going to increase, yet we're cutting the budget."

Thoma says he talked with BAE officials Monday and they still plan to come to Elgin.  They intend to build another self-propelled cannon, the  Paladin PIM. "We're still optimistic that in time, they're still gonna be rolling Howitzers out of Elgin," Thoma said.  "It will just be a different system."

Thoma says the military is a key reason for the success of the economy in southwestern Oklahoma.  He says he is still optimistic to working with BAE and looks forward to continued economic growth.