WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Joni Ernst, a member of the Senate Armed Services’ Subcommittee on Readiness and Management Support and combat veteran, asked witnesses at the hearing what the Army is doing to drive down production costs and modernize its plants, such as the Iowa Army Ammunition Plant.  She also asked about the status of the critical capabilities assessment for Rock Island Arsenal.

The Iowa Senator noted the critical role these facilities play in our national security, and the taxpayer savings that could result from modernizing these plants. Lieutenant General Michael Dana (USMC) shared Senator Ernst’s desire to streamline production.

Additionally, Senator Ernst requested an update on when the Army would put forward a report recommended by the Government Accountability Office in 2015, listing the critical capabilities at arsenals and the workload needed to maintain those capabilities.

Click here or on the image below to watch Senator Ernst’s questioning.

On Modernizing the Iowa Ammunition Plant:

Senator Ernst: “Thank you Mr. Chair and thank you gentlemen for being here and testifying today on our industrial base, and the critical role that it plays in our military readiness.

“I recently visited Iowa’s Army Ammunition Plant, which is a government owned contractor operated facility in my home state and their ability to rapidly increase workload and provide a stable supply of ammunition is a key part to our national security.

“However, due to their dependence on the Army to modernize the facility, their techniques - the manufacturing techniques – are behind.

“This isn’t something I blame the contractor for. They’ve put forth a proposal for the Iowa Ammunition Plant that could save the Army and taxpayers $18 million per year, paying for itself in less than five years.

“The cost-savings decisions currently sit with the Army, so General Wyche, this is for you: What is the Army doing to modernize its government owned, contractor operated facilities in order to help drive down price production costs and cut overhead?”

Lieutenant General Wyche: “Senator, we are doing a couple things. First we’ve identified the requirements and we know that to maintain the facilities, just to keep them from being degraded, it would cost us approximately $100,000 a year. And to get them at an acceptable level, with the modernized capabilities, it would cost us another $300 million for the next ten years.”

Lieutenant General Dana: Ma’am, if I could help out my Army brother on this because they help us with ammo, I made a trip to Lake City, which is one of the large ammunition plants in the Midwest and was just fascinated by the facility. Half the facility had equipment from 1942 and I own a lot of weapons – not in DC, by the way – but I load my own ammo and if you look at how they work in the plant, it’s just like they did in 1942 with the primers and the primer powder, it’s very dangerous work.

“But then the other half, cause the Army’s great initiative, is they went to automated in the plant so they retrain that workforce to go from the guys and gals who’ve been doing it 30 years one way to where they’re doing automated machinery and they’re doubling the output. One of the questions was, how can the industrial base meet that requirement for ammunition, well I think the Army’s doing a great job with that.”

Senator Ernst: “And hopefully we can modernize and get to that point where we’re not losing that work force, but we’re stabilizing the supply as well as growing that supply with demand as necessary. So I appreciate that.

On Outstanding Critical Capabilities Assessment for Rock Island Arsenal:

Senator Ernst: “In 2015, the GAO came forward with three recommendations to ensure we sustain the critical capabilities found at our Arsenals.

“The first issue is implementing guidance for a make-or-buy analysis when it comes to DOD procurement.

“The second was to identify fundamental elements of a strategic plan for the Arsenals.

“And the third is to develop and implement a process for identifying critical capabilities at arsenals, and the workload needed to sustain those capabilities.

“The department has concurred with all of those recommendations, but as of this morning they have not followed through with any of those recommendations or produced the reports necessary.

“I’ve been through the Rock Island Arsenal and really witnessed what the men and women are doing at that arsenal to contribute to our national security.

“This is taking a long time and General Wyche again, when will we see the reports that have been required, specifically the critical capabilities assessment, and guidance on make-or-buy?”

Lieutenant General Wyche: “Senator, that particular area of make-or-buy, I would have to come back to you on the record with that particular answer, because I’m not prepared to answer that question.”

Senator Ernst: “Okay, I would appreciate that because that is very concerning, especially to the folks at the arsenals. They’d like to see those reports as soon as possible. Thank you, thank you gentlemen.”