WATERVLIET ARSENAL, N.Y. (Sept. 26, 2013) -- Secretary of the Army John McHugh was at the Watervliet Arsenal today to assess the effect of sequestration on the arsenal's ability to conduct research and design efforts, and manufacturing, in support of howitzers, cannons, and mortars for U.S. armed forces and allies.

During the visit, McHugh, a former U.S. Congressman from upstate New York, met with Arsenal leaders and the civilian workforce, where he provided insight into the Army's current fiscal challenges and received updates about arsenal manufacturing.

"Let me be clear, the Army is undergoing a significant cut to its budget that has caused us to look at reductions in organizations, programs, and activities," McHugh said. "No staff or command will be untouched during this fiscal uncertainty."

He stated what the work force needs to do.

"Throughout its 200-year history, the arsenal's workforce has a track record of bold and innovative strategies that better supported the needs of our soldiers," McHugh said. "That kind of leadership and innovation will be critical for our future."

Despite the challenges McHugh noted the importance of the arsenal to the United States Army.

"The Watervliet Arsenal provides critical support to our national security, which is why, earlier this year, I designated it as a Center of Industrial and Technical Excellence for cannons and mortars," he said. "This designation means the Arsenal's core competency to manufacture cannons and mortars cannot be found anywhere else in the Defense Department."

A significant effect of the Center of Industrial and Technical Excellence, or CITE, designation is that the Arsenal may now more freely enter into public-private partnerships to perform work that will enhance its manufacturing core competencies.

"Such private-partnership may not only keep the Arsenal's skills sharper, but may also reduce the Arsenal's cost of operation," said Joe Turcotte the Arsenal's director of Installation Management.

The CITE recognition by the Army secretary is something the arsenal commander knows the workforce will maintain.

"The arsenal's ability to adapt goes beyond the leveraging of skilled artisans who work in tens of thousandths of an inch tolerances as they machine today's products that support artillery, tank, and mortar system in the U.S. military," said Arsenal commander Col. Lee H. Schiller Jr. "There is also a strong sense of duty that each worker has that drives their ability to leverage unique capabilities and capacity to meet the critical, urgent needs of their Army."

McHugh also acknowledged the strong support of the area's Congressional delegation, and state and local government.

"This facility and its mission have benefited from our longstanding partnership with Senators Schumer and Gillibrand and Representative Tonko, as well as the state and local community," he said. "We're grateful for their continued leadership and support."

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The Watervliet Arsenal is an Army owned-and-operated manufacturing facility and is the oldest, continuously active arsenal in the United States. It began operations during the War of 1812, and celebrated its 200th year of continuous service to the nation, July 14, 2013.

Today's Arsenal is relied upon by U.S. and foreign militaries to produce the most advanced, high-tech, high-powered weaponry for cannon, howitzer, and mortar systems. This National Historic Registered Landmark has an annual economic benefit to the local community in excess of $90 million.