Picatinny s Expanding Role in the War against Terrorism
By: Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (NJ-11)
September 09, 2005
In the 1770s, the earliest American patriots had the spirit and the resolve to demand their freedom from the King of England. All they needed, however, were the tools with which to break the chains of tyranny.
Into the breach stepped the men of Middle Forge, an industrial site which occupied the land in northwestern Morris County we now know as Picatinny Arsenal. To help General George Washington and the Continental Army win their eight-year war for independence against Great Britain, they produced everything from cannons to cannon balls.
Fast forward two-hundred and thirty-five years. Our enemies have changed, and, so too has Picatinny s role in our national defense. Over time producing cannon balls and gun powder has given way to the research and development of the most sophisticated artillery and smart munitions our troops have ever used.
After September 11, 2001, when our generals and commanders looked for new and more sophisticated weapons to be successful in Afghanistan, and later in Iraq, they turned to Picatinny. Already having a reputation as a leader for developing advanced weaponry, Picatinny expedited the use of a whole new array of armaments and technology to support and protect our troops on the ground.
The contributions of Picatinny's past and present employees, both civilian and military, to our national security have always made them among the best and brightest in the defense community. Yet, they have even more reason to be proud - their missions and responsibilities in the war are about to expand even further.
This week, the independent Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Commission, charged with reviewing the roles and missions of more than 800 U.S. military installations, sent President Bush its final judgment on which bases should be closed or substantially realigned. While the Defense Department recommended closing 62 major facilities and realigning over 700 others, the BRAC Commission voted to keep other major installations open, including Picatinny Arsenal.
As a nation at war, the Arsenal currently works on behalf of our Army, Marine, and Special Operations commands. After an exhaustive review process, the BRAC Commission strongly recommended to the President that Picatinny expand from its current role as the Army s "center of excellence for guns and ammunitions" to become the entire U.S. military's unparalleled leader for producing the most advanced weaponry.
In May, the Secretary of Defense recommended expanding Picatinny's missions and last month, the BRAC Commission endorsed the Secretary s finding. Once approved by the President and the U.S. Congress, this action will enhance Picatinny s roles and responsibilities in several ways. First, it will send missions from six Naval facilities and one Army laboratory to Picatinny. Second, it will ensure Picatinny's energetics program and employees remain at the Arsenal. And third, their recommendations will create up to 600 new jobs at the installation and the potential for many more private sector jobs in Morris and Sussex counties. Combined with the highly-skilled workforce already at Picatinny, the new scientists, engineers and other experts coming to Picatinny will ensure that the vast majority of Army, Marine, and Navy guns and "ammo" research and development now occurs under "one roof" at the Arsenal.
Picatinny's newer and bigger research and development missions will serve both local and national interests. With 95 percent of all 'go-to-war' munitions already coming through Picatinny and 16 state-of-the-art laboratories currently at the Arsenal, the base will continue to be one of our state s major contributors to the defense of our nation.
Today, Picatinny contributes over $1.3 billion to New Jersey's economy. With some of the brightest minds working at the Arsenal, Picatinny also supports over 10,500 New Jersey jobs, including thousands in our local municipalities that service or directly benefit from Picatinny. The income earned by these workers has a multiplier effect in the houses they own, the goods and services they purchase from our local businesses, and even the taxes they pay to support our local schools.
No other military facility in the country can claim to do what Picatinny does for our national defense. More importantly, there are very few installations that can claim to have the same overwhelming base of support from their surrounding towns and counties, thousands of "alumni," and former employees, many of whose family members have worked at Picatinny for generations.
While it is not always well advertised, more than a decade ago, I organized a grass roots "working group" of mayors, freeholders, state legislators, business leaders, and Picatinny advocates to prepare for the present BRAC round.
Judging from the BRAC Commission's and Defense Department's strong recommendation for Picatinny, it appears our message was well received. Along with many community leaders, there are many other people and organizations to thank for their hard work, support, and continued advocacy on behalf of Picatinny including: the Morris County Chamber of Commerce and local chambers, Dover General Hospital, current and retired Picatinny employees, Stevens Institute of Technology, NJIT, Rutgers and Princeton s Universities, and especially the Concerned Responsible Individuals to Save Picatinny (CRISP), a volunteer group of retired Picatinny engineers, managers, and military personnel who spearheaded a strong campaign for Picatinny both during this BRAC round and the previous one ten years ago.
From the Revolutionary War to the downfall of Saddam Hussein's regime, servicemen and women have continually relied on Picatinny technology. In fact, it is often said that every soldier carries a piece of Picatinny technology when they go into battle, such as the "Picatinny Rail."
Now, in an age when terrorists are using Improvised Explosive Devices (IED s) and performing suicide bombing missions to kill innocent civilians and our young soldiers, it is even more critical that Picatinny expand its missions and continue to provide the very best and most advanced weaponry to defeat these terrorists and keep our servicemen and women safe both here at home and abroad, now and into the future.
Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (NJ-11) is the Vice Chairman of the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. He represents all of Morris County, and portions of Sussex, Essex, Passaic and Somerset counties in New Jersey.