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Lobbyist would fight for Arsenal

A task force of the Quad City Development Group is looking into hiring a permanent Washington lobbyist to represent the Quad-Cities' interests on the Rock Island Arsenal.

Outgoing chairman Tom Robinson disclosed the idea for the Washington representative Jan. 22 during the development group's 36th annual meeting.

The task force is trying to determine who would be an appropriate representative and how much the service would cost, development group president John Gardner said.

Although the Quad-Cities has tried to keep up with day-to-day changes in Washington, Mr. Gardner said, the political scene keeps changing. A powerful Senate committee chairman, whom he declined to identify, suggested the Quad-Cities could use a Washington representative, Mr. Gardner said.

``I don't think we felt the same degree of threat to the Arsenal before,'' he said.

The Arsenal fared fairly well in the past under the Base Realignment and Closure commission process, Mr. Gardner said. The downsizing of the military under the current Department of Defense effort is more political, less open and more complex this time, he said.

A likely representative would be a retired military person with a basic understanding of the Pentagon and Congress. He or she also could be a former staffer with the Armed Services Committee or from a legal firm specializing in the inner workings of the defense department, he said.

Once they looked into it, they realized that the Huntsvilles of the world and states like South Carolina and others with major military installations are represented by someone who looks out for their best interest, Mr. Gardner said.

The suggestion does not undermine the excellent cooperation the Quad-Cities' congressional delegates have given the community, Mr. Gardner said.

``This would supplement that,'' he said.

It would also offer permanence every budget year in promoting the Arsenal's opportunities and challenges, he said.

Quad-Cities' delegates have used their influence for years, he said.

``This is not a one-budget-cycle issue,'' he said. ``Now, it's a real war and we need to know the territory and the players and the different levels and places where the battles are fought.''

What's at stake for the Arsenal is preserving and expanding the civilian work force of 6,700 and 25 to 30 military commands now located on the federally owned island base. The island has one of the most modern and under-used manufacturing centers in the world and enough low-cost, flexible office space to house many more government agencies.

This is the basis of the Quad-Cities' argument. The task force also has proposed plans for consolidating and relocating other government agencies to Arsenal Island to preserve and strengthen the country's military defense and preparedness.

Proposed cuts, however, come from many directions, according to military sources and a coalition of Arsenal labor unions.

-- Dec. 1997: An announced downsizing of the Defense Megacenter, currently employing 170 data-processing workers, from a megacenter to a regional center. Official impact on work force unknown. Labor coalition says 200 local jobs at risk.

-- A reduction of regional Defense Finance and Accounting Services branches from 18 to 10. The arsenal's branch had 340 jobs last fall. Official impact on work force unknown. Labor coalition says another 200 local jobs at risk.

-- Rock Island Arsenal is starving for work as the Army cuts deals with General Dynamics and other defense contractors. Labor coalition says 200 jobs threatened now and more later. In January, U.S. Rep. Lane Evans, D-Rock Island, suggested that the Arsenal be alowed to compete with the private defense contractors.

-- The Army plans to take away depot maintenance management from the Industrial Operations Command, lopping off about 300 jobs.

-- The Armament and Chemical Acquisition and Logistics Activity is dying by inches, with 50 jobs lost in 1997 and maybe 100 more in 1998.

-- By Rita Pearson (February 2, 1998)

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