Army official touts Rock Island Arsenal as a “national treasure”

ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL -

Inside the Arsenal's Joint Manufacturing and Technology Center, peace time projects keep about 1,100 civilians on the job.

The Arsenal nearly closed for good in 2005. That's  when a last-minute phone call from then-Rep. Dennis Hastert saved it.

Over the last decade, it's been positioning itself to survive another possible Base Realignment and Closure hearing in 2021.

"It's inconceivable to me we would BRAC the Rock Island Arsenal," said Army Under Secretary Ryan McCarthy, during a visit on Friday, April 13.  "This is a national treasure for what it performs for the nation."

It's a treasure in transformation.

Two directives could help it to thrive.  "Check Before You Rent" aims to fill vacant space, and "Make Or Buy" intends to create more hands-on work.

"If we can do it better, more cheaply, in a timely way right here in Rock Island, why would we spend any money going anywhere else?" asked Sen. Dick Durbin, (D) Illinois.

McCarthy calls on additive manufacturing - also known as 3-D printing - to find new ways to make things in the Arsenal factory.

"We're making investments related to that unique capability," he continued.  "It's tied to the university system in the state of Illinois."

Arsenal amenities also add appeal.  New housing, in the works for years, is now becoming a reality.  That adds to the selling points.

The Rock Island Arsenal remains the area's top employer, with some 6,100 workers.

"We've seen a dramatic improvement in the stature of this organization, and we have seen a growth in the skill set of the men and women who work here," said Sen. Durbin.

Improvements that will be important to keeping it around for decades to come.