WATERVLIET ARSENAL, N.Y. (Dec. 18, 2013) -- Oh, it is great to be part of the Army-owned and operated manufacturing center at Watervliet. Workload magically flows in every year to keep full utilization of the arsenal's vast capability and capacity. Raw materials arrive on time and at the standard required. And the arsenal has all the resources readily available to ensure the workforce has all the tools required to do their job.

And, if we click our heels three times we will be in Kansas.

Like any Army Industrial Base organization, the Watervliet Arsenal does not operate independently on a perfectly climate-controlled island with a steady reliable supply of easy work, plentiful and timely raw materials, and all the skilled workers and money with which to do the work.

It has internal and external challenges that must be known and then planned for to improve its business model and to maximize its potential. To do this, the arsenal's Strategic Planning team recently engaged in a series of activities to update the arsenal's Strategic Plan.

The Watervliet's Board of Directors first assembled a strategic planning team in 2012 to revise the arsenal's mission and vision statements. Action plans and performance metrics were identified along four Lines of Operation (LOO): Products, People, Processes, and Culture, each led by a member of the BOD.

Within each LOO, actions were implemented to address such critical areas as employee skills, business development, internal and external culture, process improvement, equipment reliability, and supplier performance. These actions have since been reviewed every week as implementation teams report progress and make tactical course corrections to ensure sustained movement toward all planned objectives.

But the journey the arsenal began in 2012 may not be the correct road to take today as the Army works its way through the final withdrawal of combat troops from Afghanistan and through a great fiscal uncertainty that is commonly known as sequestration.

In an all-day session before Thanksgiving, the strategic planning team completed a new analysis of the arsenal's current Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT). Strengths and Weaknesses are internal -- things we can control or at least affect. Threats and Opportunities are external.

Although we can't control external Threats, we must take action by minimizing weaknesses that Threats could exploit. Suppose there is the Threat of snow and ice, which we can't control, and the Weakness of bald tires on our car. By getting new snow tires we can minimize the Threat's ability to harm us.

Opportunities are external events we take advantage of by using our Strengths. One opportunity identified is the potential for medium caliber workload, but there are no mandates that work will come to the arsenal.

Nevertheless, the opportunity is there, and if the arsenal is serious about getting that type of work, it must ensure that it has shaped its capability and capacity to accommodate the mission.

Action plans and performance metrics are currently being developed to address the most significant Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. These action plans should trickle down throughout the workforce and become part of each worker's individual performance objectives.

This is an exciting, challenging time to be in the Army's Industrial Base. A period of time that requires the arsenal to fully energize its strategic planning and continuous improvement plans to be more competitive and more viable to the Department of Defense.

Yes, these are challenging times, but not anything the arsenal workforce has not seen before. After every military conflict, from the combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan to the War of 1812, the arsenal has transformed itself to meet the needs of the country.


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