THE ISSUE: Possible expansion at the Pine Bluff Arsenal THE IMPACT: An expansion at the Pine Bluff Arsenal could mean more jobs to our area and a boost to the economy.
The Department of Defense is studying the viability of a logistics and distribution center at the Pine Bluff Arsenal for the nation's Joint Chemical-Biological Defense program.
On Nov. 14, Congress passed the conference report for the National Defense Authorization Act, which includes a provision requiring the Secretary of Defense to conduct a report on the need for such a center, according to Rep. Bruce Westerman of Arkansas' Fourth Congressional District.
The accompanying Senate Armed Services Committee report recognizes the Pine Bluff Arsenal for its chemical-biological defense expertise as a logistics center location.
The Pine Bluff Arsenal is where the government produces and stores chemical defense equipment for the military.
The arsenal already has a multi-million dollar impact on the Pine Bluff area, and an expansion could increase that, especially with construction and contractor jobs, officials said.
“The language was the result of an amendment proposed by Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., with support from Sen. Tom Cotton R-Ark., who serves on the Armed Services Committee,” according to a news release from the City of White Hall, where the arsenal is located.
“Westerman was instrumental in ushering the final conference report with support from the entire Arkansas congressional delegation.”
White Hall Mayor Noel Foster said in the release: “We are thankful for our congressional delegation's efforts on this important initiative. Senator Boozman, Senator Cotton, and Congressman Westerman have been personally engaged, and the entire Arkansas delegation has been wholly supportive of the Arsenal and its critical role in ensuring the readiness of our soldiers, sailors, and airmen.”
Westerman said in a news release that the “Pine Bluff Arsenal is uniquely equipped to house our military's chemical and biological agents, For decades, PBA has proven itself capable of handling the most sensitive chemical components. Inclusion of this study on the viability of a large-scale clearinghouse for our nation's chemical and biological agents is important for military readiness and important for the working military professionals at Pine Bluff Arsenal.”
The Arsenal was officially designated in 2005 as the only Center of Industrial and Technical Excellence for Chemical and Biological Defense Equipment and is centrally located for the storage, repair and distribution of the specialized equipment.
The Logistics and Distribution Center would centralize the chemical defense equipment manufacturing, storage, shelf-life testing and depot maintenance. The proposal was recommended by the Joint Program Executive Office for Chemical and Biological Defense to improve efficiency by reducing redundancies and streamlining business processes, according to Westerman's office.
The U.S. Senate passed a $700 billion defense policy bill on Thursday, backing President Donald Trump's call for a bigger, stronger military, but leaving unsettled how to fund the massive spending increase amid a Republican-led push to cut taxes.
The Senate passed by voice vote the annual National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, which authorizes the level of defense spending and sets policies controlling how the money is spent.
The measure, passed by the House of Representatives, next goes to the White House for Trump's signature. Trump's fellow Republicans control majorities in both the House and Senate and he is expected to sign the bill.
Reuters contributed to this report.