Politics Puts Iowa Arsenal Between a Rock Island and a Hard Place

DAVENPORT, Iowa — A petite woman with a cropped haircut stood in front of a handful of local reporters and television cameras, dwarfed by the howitzer behind her. On opening day of the Iowa State Fair, far from the media swarming the presidential candidates, Republican Sen. Joni Ernst, a lieutenant colonel in the Iowa Army National Guard, paid a visit to Rock Island Arsenal.

As Iowa takes center stage in the 2016 race, the Army arsenal has stayed largely outside the spotlight. On an island in the Mississippi River, the border between Iowa and Illinois running through it, Rock Island is the largest government-owned and operated weapons manufacturing arsenal in the country, and, the Army’s only active foundry, operating since the 1880s. While Donald Trump and the other candidates debated the Iraq War and big government at the fair, here, the debate over federal spending and the budget caps due to return at the start of fiscal 2016 on Oct. 1 prevents managers from planning for even the immediate future.

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