By John B. Snyder, Watervliet ArsenalMay 9, 2018
WATERVLIET ARSENAL, N.Y. -- Dr. Bruce Jette, who in March was sworn in as the Army's assistant secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology, made his first visit to the Army's oldest operating arsenal on May 8 to learn more about the Army's manufacturing process.
Jette said last month in an article about advancing acquisition that the Army must change from previous industrial-age models of materiel program management and procurement. And so, it makes sense that Jette would want to see firsthand Army manufacturing so early in his tenure.
But, given that the Watervliet Arsenal has been in continuous operation since 1813, Jette's words may have been a concern to some here. After all, the Arsenal is a heavy-industrial manufacturing center, and one that has weathered countless industrial eras during its 204-year history.
So, was Jette coming here to radically change how the Arsenal does business?
During a daylong visit, which also brought experts here from several Army research centers and from the Army's Program Executive Office for Ground Combat Systems, Jette was able to dispel any concerns of a major shakeup of the Arsenal's programs, processes, or to its workforce.
"I'm learning," Jette said several times throughout the day as he balanced his visit from one being a student to one as a coach. "The more I know about how you (Arsenal) operate and the challenges you are having to improve your capability and capacity to support rising Soldier readiness requirements, the better I can help you."
Jette listened intently as Morrow described the Arsenal's current capability and capacity challenges that may only be satisfied with more funding for new equipment and an expansion of the workforce.
"Because of limited funding for new equipment, we have not been able to provide continuous performance improvements across all operations," said Arsenal Commander Col. Joseph Morrow. "We simply do not generate new capability by injecting new machines onto a production line in a piecemeal approach. We do it (generate new capability) by replacing entire banks of machinery on a production floor."
Although Jette thanked Morrow and the Arsenal workforce for their ability to superbly maneuver the Arsenal through several years of budget turmoil to now be in a position to support dramatic rising readiness requirements, he also said the command must do more.
"I am trying to understand the process and your challenges, but I can't fix everything," Jette said. "I need data. Data that is specific enough that says that if we don't get 'x' then 'y' will or will not happen. If you get me that kind of data, then I am willing to talk to any senior Army leader or a member of Congress on your behalf."
Morrow promised that he and his staffed would get to work immediately to better tell the Arsenal story in such specifics that would bring positive results.
Suffice it to say that Jette not only dispelled any concerns of his visit, he also gave hope to the workforce that senior Army leaders are listening and help is on the way.
During Jette's visit, he received briefings from the Arsenal, the Army's Benét Laboratories, U.S. Army Tank-automotive Armaments Command, and from the Army's Program Executive Office for Ground Combat Systems. Although much of the day was spent on heavy discussion about today's state of Army manufacturing and research for large caliber weapons, Jette was also able to tour several production floors that had work on howitzer and tank cannons in process.
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 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.