By Robert Schilling
Growing up in Rock Island, you quickly learn how vital the Rock Island Arsenal (RIA) is to our community.
Whether it's the equipment it manufactures for the brave men and women who serve this country, the jobs it provides to our friends and neighbors, or the safety and security it gives our nation, the RIA is a crucial part of our history.
It's no surprise then that enthusiasm, determination, and pride were in full force as the RIA celebrated its 150th Anniversary in July. In 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signed into law the Act that established the RIA, and I'm committed to guaranteeing that this national treasure remains active and strong for centuries to come.
One of my first actions as a representative-elect was getting on the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) so I could go to bat for the RIA.
As a small business owner I believe in troubleshooting your way to solutions. I sought out those who know the Arsenal best for input on policies we could pursue to grow workload.
Using this feedback, I worked with my colleague from across the river, Dave Loebsack, to write bipartisan legislation (H.R. 2570) to boost manufacturing and jobs at arsenals by lifting the cap on public-private partnerships and designating arsenals as Centers of Industrial and Technical Excellence.
Getting our measures passed by the House was an important step for public-private partnerships and job growth, but we still had to defeat efforts by some Senators to reinstate that cap -- something that made no economic sense. We fought tooth and nail, and common sense prevailed as these pro-arsenal provisions were signed into law. We got done in a matter of months what my predecessors couldn't do in 10 years.
These legislative victories are just the beginning of actions we can take to support the Arsenal for centuries to come. I'll continue to work across the aisle and across the river to achieve results that strengthen and promote the RIA.
Last February, we convened a bipartisan, bicameral, and bistate group of community leaders to form "Team Rock Island Arsenal" focused on the future of RIA. In addition, for 50 years, Congress has come together to pass a Defense Authorization bill to support our military. This year's House bill prevents the Administration's call for another round of base closures in 2013.
Unfortunately, the Senate hasn't yet taken up a defense bill. Their failure to act threatens decades of bipartisanship, but I hope that they come to see this bill as a priority.
In my short time as your representative, I've brought lawmakers from both coasts and both sides of the aisle, including HASC Chairman Buck McKeon (Calif.-25) and Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa (HI-1), to tour RIA so they can see the national treasure we have in our own backyard.
Additionally, I'm continuing to work in Washington to reverse damaging defense cuts and promote more workload opportunities. I supported the Budget Control Act to change business as usual in Washington, avoid economic collapse and spark true debate on deficit reduction.
While compromise could not be found by a handful of members this time, I'm working in a bipartisan fashion to both replace the defense cuts and promote H.R. 5706, the Army Arsenal Strategic Workload Enhancement Act in an effort to grow more jobs at the arsenal.
In less than two years, we've removed roadblocks and made it easier for arsenals to partner with other manufacturers and create jobs. We know that by working together, we can achieve results for RIA and its employees. That is the approach I will continue pursuing to secure the Arsenal's future.