Arsenal Vision

Brig. Gen. John Wharton leads the way Thursday as he heads into the auditorium at the Figge Art Museum in Davenport for a speech on the Rock Island Arsenal’s strategic importance.

Jeff Cook

Brig. Gen. John Wharton pitched a Rock Island Arsenal rebranding on Capitol Hill and in the halls of the Pentagon, touting the installation as the “home of U.S. Army logistics.”

He shared his pitch with the Quad-City business community Thursday in a speech at the Figge Art Museum, Davenport, sponsored by the Quad-Cities Chamber of Commerce.

Wharton took command of the Army Sustainment Command in September.

He recognizes the heritage of the Arsenal is manufacturing with the Joint Manufacturing and Technology Center, but as the Army downsizes, the future of the base is as part of the Army’s global distribution network.

“We’ve got to adapt to be relevant,” he said. “I’ve already started selling that to my superiors and Congress. I’m not wasting time.

“I feel we have a very consistent message from a community standpoint.”

Besides logistics, Wharton pointed to information technology, becoming a center of excellence in the areas of manufacturing and technology, global supply, small business or green technology and energy as potential opportunities. President Barack Obama mentioned the creation of centers of excellence in his State of the Union speech earlier this year.

Rebranding also means getting the attention of the Army Materiel Command to invest more in the Quad-Cities and attracting more general commands to the Arsenal. The Army Materiel Command oversees Army Sustainment Command.

The Arsenal can’t go it alone to take advantage of those opportunities, needing the help of elected officials and business leaders, Wharton said.

“We have the opportunity to position the Quad-Cities for the future,” he said. “I think the Quad-Cities is well-positioned to do that, but that is up to the elected officials.”

He warned that a Base Closure and Re-Alignment Commission could be convened at the request of services other than the Army but that it shouldn’t be feared. It also should seen as an opportunity, Wharton said, noting that it doesn’t just move commands out but also can bring them in.

He found a fan in Davenport Mayor Bill Gluba.

“You are the first general to come here wanting to create a plan for the future,” he told the general during a question-and-answer session.

During his speech, Wharton spoke positively of the Quad-Cities, calling it “the best community I’ve been in” and complimenting the sincerity and work ethic of Quad-Citians.