By John B. Snyder, Watervliet ArsenalOctober 26, 2017
WATERVLIET ARSENAL, N.Y. -- The U.S. Army is making a $41.7 million investment in its manufacturing center at Watervliet, N.Y., to position the Arsenal to better support the emerging readiness needs of U.S. and foreign militaries.
Arsenal Commander Col. Joseph Morrow said the Arsenal has received more than $100 million in new orders over what it had at this same point in time last year. And to support this dramatic rise in readiness requirements, as well as the potential for tens of thousands of more direct labor hours to support future contracts that are currently being worked, the Army must invest now to upgrade the Arsenal's mature infrastructure.
"This is not the same Arsenal that it was when I took command in July 2016," said Morrow. "Due to a significant and recent rise in sustainment and modernization readiness needs of our Army and of our allies, we must nearly double our current manufacturing capacity in the next four years."
James Kardas, an Arsenal industrial engineer who will oversee the equipment modernization program, said that when the average age of the Arsenal's plant equipment is more than 30 years old - which includes nearly 650 machines and heat treatment facilities - it is becoming more difficult every day to meet the increased readiness needs of our troops.
Kardas further explained that the last major infrastructure investment here occurred in the late 1970s and early 1980s through an approximately $300 million Renovation of Armament Manufacturing program called REARM. Since then, the Arsenal has primarily relied on an internal Capital Investment Program or CIP, which is funded through the Arsenal's sales to maintain equipment availability. But CIP, although very successful, has had limited funding through the years and was only set up to maintain current capability, not to increase capability.
Recent Arsenal commanders have raised the issue of aging plant equipment to the Army's senior leaders and, as a result, various Army weapon program managers have stepped in to augment the Arsenal's limited-funded CIP activity by paying for equipment upgrades or for new machines.
And so, the Arsenal team was well prepared for the day when additional funding would come in by already having an established list of priorities for capability and capacity upgrades, Kardas said.
Simply bringing on line one machine involves a team effort that transcends Kardas' team, such as representatives from manufacturing division, production planning and control, public works, safety, resource management, and contracting. But there are very few here, if any, who have a history of working with an investment of this size.
Gerard Mangione, the chief of contracting at the Arsenal, said that this investment will be the largest that anyone on his team has seen in their careers here. But despite the enormity of the contracts required to support this investment, he believes the Arsenal is well prepared to execute the plan that Kardas and his team have developed.
"The Arsenal leadership has done a great job ensuring that my team was involved in all planning actions that may affect Arsenal production and or future readiness requirements," Mangione said. "As the likelihood for a significant amount of funding increased, we fast tracked the procurement process by issuing solicitations for contracts, reviewing proposals and positioning for contract awards pending the receipt of funding."
Due in large part to having equipment and infrastructure priorities established, coupled with the ability of the contracting team getting support from its higher headquarters at Warren, Mich., the Arsenal shaved nearly six months off of the procurement cycle, Mangione said.
Although funding has arrived, due to the complexity of some of the larger machines and the challenges of preparing foundations to support the new machines, the final machine from this funding may not be on line until 2020. Nevertheless, some of the smaller, less complex machines may arrive in 2018.
The Watervliet Arsenal (pronounced water-vleet") is an Army-owned-and-operated manufacturing facility located in Watervliet, New York. The Arsenal is the oldest, continuously active arsenal in the United States, having begun operations during the War of 1812. The Arsenal is a subordinate command to the TACOM Life Cycle Management Command and the Army Materiel Command.