Forging a Partnership on the Shop Floor
DOD has only one source for large-caliber cannons: Watervliet Arsenal, in operation in Watervliet, New York, since 1813. As the home of Army-designated “critical manufacturing capabilities,” which don’t exist anywhere else in the U.S. industrial base, Watervliet, its forges and the skilled workers who operate them are assets that a commercial supplier simply cannot replace. But the loss of that workforce is exactly what the arsenal faced in 2011 after the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan wound down. Revenue had dipped to $88 million, down from $133 million in 2009, as the Army required fewer of the high-tech, high-powered cannon, howitzer and mortar systems that Watervliet produces.
The arsenal saved its critical capabilities by forging a public-private partnership with Electralloy, G.O. Carlson Inc., a privately held metals company, that lets Electralloy use Watervliet’s facilities—so its workload becomes the arsenal’s workload. Workers at the arsenal—all government employees—fulfill orders for DOD, but also for Electralloy and its customers. “Our workload alone couldn’t sustain this,” said Joseph Turcotte, the arsenal’s deputy commander.