Durbin in Q-C: We'll win fight to keep Arsenal manufacturing

By:  Brandy Donaldson
Quad-Cities Online

In the Quad-Cities Tuesday to mark the opening of his newest Illinois office, U.S. Sen. DickDurbin, D-Ill., also visited the Rock Island Arsenal and made clear his intention to "fight" for the close to 1,800 jobs being threatened there by federal budget cuts.

Rumors swirl that the federal Army Material Command is considering closing the Arsenal'sJoint Manufacturing and Technology Center (JMTC) as part of $3 billion in budget cuts, Sen Durbin said.

"If they want to threaten it, they're in for a fight," he said. "We're going to have senators from both political parties from Iowa and Illinois, as well as the members of the (U.S.) House, fighting to preserve these important jobs, and more importantly fighting to preserve this important part of our nation's defense."

Sen. Durbin was among a bi-partisan group of federal legislators from Iowa and Illinois to sign a letter last week to Army Secretary John McHugh and Gen. Ann E. Dunwoody, commanding general of the Army Materiel Command, seeking a meeting right away to address the rumors.

Sen. Durbin said such a meeting has been scheduled for July, but he and others are lobbying to get a meeting sooner, he said.

"With a third of these workers being veterans of our military, with jobs so scarce and with these skills so important, we are going to fight to make sure the Rock Island Arsenal stays open and that some 1,800 employees at (JMTC) can continue to work," he said."This is worth the fight and it's a fight we're going to win."

Operation of the JMTC does not cost the American taxpayers any money, making the threat of its potential closure even harder to believe, Sen.Durbin said.

"I don't understand the reasoning behind this," he said."In terms of what they do there, there is no other place that does this in the United States.

"In terms of the cost to federal taxpayers, the JMTC doesn't cost the taxpayers one penny of federal appropriated funds. They sell what they make."

Sen. Durbin visited the Arsenal before stopping in to mark the opening of his new office in Rock Island. More than 100 people passed through the office Tuesday during its open house.

"We will focus on not only constituent services, helping people dealing with federal agencies, but also important job creation," Sen.Durbin said. "We are still suffering as a nation with a high unemployment rate and we feel it in Illinois.

"We have lost a lot of good-paying jobs, manufacturing jobs and construction jobs. And I want to be in close touch with local businesses and local agencies to do everything we can in Washington to help them bring jobs back to this area."

The office -- on the second floor of the Rock Island County office building at 1504 3rd Ave. -- will be staffed by two full-time employees.

Brad Middleton, a former legislative assistant from Sen.Durbin's Washington, D.C. office, will serve as the office's northwestern outreach coordinator. Kate Jennings, a staffer from President Barack Obama's former local Senate office, will serve as a staff assistant.

Sen. Durbin also has offices in Chicago, Springfield and Carbondale. The Rock Island office will serve 20 counties.

In the county building, Sen.Durbin's office is across the hall from state Rep. Pat Verschoore, D-Milan, in the two-room suite formerly occupied by the Illinois treasurer's Rock Island satellite location.

"This is a great way for Sen. Durbin to get closer to the people," Rock Island County Board Chairman Jim Bohnsack said. "If people have issues, they will be able to get them solved right away. We have both the state (legislature) and the U.S. Senate representedhere in the county building now and that's a great thing."