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Simon: Boost government contracts at Rock Island Arsenal 

Lt. Governor to meet new General, lend support to federal workforce act

ROCK ISLAND – May 28, 2012. In advance of a visit to the Quad Cities on Wednesday, Lt. Governor Sheila Simon said Congress is on the right track in efforts to increase the workload at and ensure the long-term health of the Rock Island Arsenal.

Simon, who chairs a state committee on retention and reuse of military bases, is backing bipartisan legislation introduced by U.S. Senators Dick Durbin and Mark Kirk of Illinois and Chuck Grassley and Tom Harkin of Iowa. It would require the Army to create a strategic plan for awarding government contracts that would ensure arsenals receive the workload they need to keep workers’ skills sharp between military engagements.

“The Rock Island Arsenal is a valuable national security resource and an economic engine for Illinois,” Simon said. “Our federal government has a responsibility to protect this resource. Allowing the arsenal to compete for more government contracts could help contain production costs at the national level and keep people employed at the local level during peacetime and times of conflict.”

For more than a decade, the arsenal has produced critical weapons, parts and material for use on the front lines of Iraq and Afghanistan, including armor for Humvees that were vulnerable to improvised explosive devices. With the military engagements winding down, lawmakers are seeking ways to maintain a vibrant workload at the arsenal through government and public contracts.

As introduced, the Army Arsenal Strategic Workload Enhancement Act of 2012 would make arsenals around the nation eligible for military contracts from all U.S. Department of Defense agencies, rather than just within the Army. This builds on federal legislation passed last year that allows for unlimited private-public partnerships at arsenals, which could translate to more domestic manufacturing work.

Simon serves as chair of the state’s Interagency Military Base Support and Economic Development Committee (IMBSEDC), which was established in 2005 in response to U.S. Department of Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission (BRAC) recommendations to close and realign military bases nationwide.

On Wednesday, Simon plans to meet with Major General Patricia McQuistion, the arsenal’s first female commanding general, and other support staff. McQuistion oversees operations on the island and leads a global organization responsible for providing front-line logistics support to combat units. During the visit, they will discuss the importance of the Strategic Workload Act and its value to the arsenal and surrounding community.