Posted Online: Oct. 08, 2012, 6:57 pm

Bustos: Protecting the Arsenal

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By Cheri Bustos

(Editor's note: The candidate is answering the question: Week 3: Of course, sequestration is only one issue facing the Quad-Cities No. 1 employer. The Pentagon is focusing on creating a leaner, meaner more modern military. What do you see as the Rock Island Arsenal's role in that future and, specifically, how would you promote and protect it?)

The Rock Island Arsenal is more than just our region's largest employer; it represents a vital component in our economic future.

The Arsenal employs approximately 8,000 people from throughout the region. These are the types of middle class jobs we need to attract and retain.

It's also a mainstay in our national security and essential element in arming and equipping our troops. Who can forget it was the Arsenal's Joint Manufacturing and Technology Center that produced the armor for Humvees in the Iraq War, increasing the safety of our troops?

The Arsenal is representative of the importance of manufacturing to our region. I've promoted the 17th District as a Manufacturing Triangle, anchored by the Quad-Cities, Peoria and Rockford, that can create the types of middle class jobs our region desperately needs.

Continued investment in the Arsenal for weapons production, operations and maintenance is a must.

We can also promote public-private partnerships and steer more research and development funding to the Arsenal that will help not only our national security but can have spin-off civilian applications as well.

Unfortunately, the Arsenal is threatened by partisan bickering and brinksmanship in Washington. Congressman Bobby Schilling voted for a short-sighted law that could trigger massive defense cuts and has put the Arsenal jobs at risk.

I would have stood with Reps. Dave Loebsack and Bruce Braley who feared this outcome and voted accordingly.

Congressman Schilling has tried to cover up his vote and continues to try to shift blame. He should take responsibility for his actions.

He has the wrong priorities for this region.

We must end the partisan standoffs in Congress that continue to push our economy to the brink and have put Illinois jobs and our security at risk. We need a strong and agile military to keep our country safe, and the Arsenal has a key role to play in our security.

I know the workers at the Rock Island Arsenal are some of the best in the world, and I will work hand-in-hand with the Obama Administration to protect the jobs here.

If the Pentagon must cut defense spending, those cuts should first happen in Washington administration and not on the backs of soldiers or the workers at the Arsenal.

This is a matter of priorities.

The looming triggered defense cuts are a symptom of gridlock in Washington. We must end that gridlock and cut responsibly — not blindly across the board. In order to keep the Arsenal running, we need a Congressional delegation that can work together to fight to keep the jobs here. Congressman Schilling has consistently put politics and his party ahead of the district.

Advocating for the Arsenal is about putting people and the economy of our region ahead of politics. If elected to Congress, I will partner with President Obama, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin and the Congressman representing the Iowa Quad-Cities, whomever that may be, Democrat or Republican, on behalf of the Arsenal.

Together we will work to protect those good-paying jobs and implement a forward-looking plan to make sure that jobs at the Arsenal are here to stay. If we set politics aside, I am confident we can protect the Rock Island Arsenal for years to come and devise an innovative approach for its growth.

Cheri Bustos of East Moline is the Democratic candidate for Congress in the 17th District.