Durbin and Kirk: Defense Appropriations Bill Will Help Ensure Rock Island Arsenal's Long-Term Strength

[ROCK ISLAND, IL] – U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Mark Kirk (R-IL) said today that the Department of Defense appropriations bill which passed the Senate Appropriations Committee yesterday will give the Rock Island Arsenal the support it needs to remain strong while transitioning into peacetime operations.  The legislation, the first which Durbin has passed through the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee since being named chairman earlier this year, contains several provisions to ensure the Arsenal maintains a sustainable workload as the country’s Armed Forces wind down their overseas involvements.


“The Rock Island Arsenal is a vital military asset and a lynchpin of the Quad Cities’ economy,” Durbin said.  “The appropriations bill which passed out of committee yesterday ensures that the RIA maintains the workload it needs to keep its workers’ skills sharp while pursuing the public-private partnerships it needs to stay strong.  The Arsenal has a lot to offer both the private sector and our nation’s military, and I’m proud that the first appropriations bill I moved through the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee gives the Arsenal the support it needs to meet its full production potential.”


Durbin worked with U.S. Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL), who also sits on the Appropriations Committee, to ensure the RIA and other Illinois priorities received the funding they need to stay strong. 


"This bill recognizes Rock Island Arsenal's critical role in preserving our national security," Senator Kirk said. "Senator Durbin and I worked to include language directing the Army to keep the Arsenal’s workload strong and capable of responding to military needs or national emergencies – and to ensure Congress will have time to fight any planned layoffs in the future.  The bill also advances my longstanding efforts to promote public-private partnerships to support the Arsenal's workforce.  As the bill moves forward, Senator Durbin and I will work to secure the Arsenal’s future as both a strategic asset to our national defense and an integral part of the Quad-Cities' economy."


As long conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan come to a close, the workload at the Arsenal’s Joint Manufacturing and Technology Center (JMTC) has dwindled.  To counter that decline, the JMTC has begun pursuing public-private partnerships to maintain adequate work levels and keep its employees’ skills up-to-date.  A Durbin-authored provision, co-sponsored by Kirk, in the Fiscal Year 2012 Defense Authorization bill removed the cap on the number of those partnerships into which the Arsenal may enter.  However, the JMTC’s workload has fluctuated significantly in recent months, forcing the Arsenal to charge above-market rates for its manufacturing services in order to cover operating costs.


The Department of Defense Appropriations Act of 2014 will also help lower the hourly rate which the JMTC charges by adding $150 million to the Army Working Capital Fund’s Industrial Mobilization Capacity.  These funds will be distributed between the nation’s three arsenals, allowing them to better maintain stable, low rates while covering overhead. 


The bill also directs the Secretary of the Army to assign the JMTC enough work to sustain its workers’ critical skills.  That minimum workload will be determined by Army analysis conducted in accordance with a Durbin-authored provision in the FY2013 National Defense Authorization Act requiring the Army to develop a strategic plan for its arsenals.


“As we enter peacetime, we can’t afford to let the RIA workforce’s critical manufacturing skills die on the vine,” Durbin said.  “Time and again, the Arsenal has been there for our men and women in uniform.  I am committed to making sure that remains the case.”


The appropriations bill also addresses critical shortfalls in major Department of Defense operations which have developed as a result of sequestration.  It provides for a 1 percent pay raise for troops and civilian military employees and increases funding for health care for veterans.  It also cuts $12.6 billion in wasteful spending across 464 individual programs, saving $10.3 billion when compared to last year’s defense appropriations.


The defense appropriations bill passed the Appropriations Committee Thursday on a bipartisan 22-8 vote.  It now moves to the Senate floor for consideration.


At the Rock Island Arsenal, the JMTC alone employs 1,444 workers and has an estimated economic impact of $318 million on the surrounding area.  When all the programs it houses are considered, the Arsenal has a $1 billion impact on the Quad Cities’ economy.