Weekly Columns

Arkansas has a long and proud history of service to our country, including generations who have worn our nation’s uniform, steadfast community support for our Armed Forces and significant contributions to U.S. national security. I’m proud to continue that commitment at the federal level and champion investment to expand our state’s role in protecting America, our allies and interests well into the future. 

The Arkansas congressional delegation, along with state and local leaders, helped secure a mission that will make Ebbing Air National Guard Base in Fort Smith the premier pilot training center in the United States. Congress recently approved funds to enhance the base infrastructure to support the new mission and deliver on-time training for our partners.

Just as important, we’re investing in our defense industrial base to increase production of all munitions so we can meet today’s demands while developing a stockpile to deter or win conflicts in the years to come. Camden, located in south Arkansas, is stepping up to help achieve this goal. 

Bunkers created nearly 80 years ago for military testing and munitions storage serve as an ideal location for modern defense manufacturing that is replenishing our country’s arsenal. The area has established itself as a top defense production site and garnered the attention of state leaders as well as officials at the Pentagon. 

Its importance to our defense industrial base brought General C.Q. Brown, Jr., Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to Camden in March to advocate for congressional support of efforts to supply our allies with critical munitions, ensure adequate capacity and refill our own stockpiles.

I was proud to welcome him to Arkansas and showcase the unique capabilities available in the community that make it worth even further investment. Gen. Brown benefited from a firsthand look at operations at Lockheed Martin, which is producing the Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System and the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System. These critical munitions are needed by our partners including the Ukrainians who are using these weapons systems to defend their country. 

The area’s strategic importance continues to rise. In February, I joined Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Congressman Bruce Westerman and other local leaders to celebrate the groundbreaking of the R2S facility that will produce missile systems to be used by the Marine Corps and American allies. This operation is investing $63 million to the community and creating as many as 60 jobs.

This growth is why it is vital to enrich the quality of life so recruiting and retaining the workforce needed to support the industry is not an obstacle but a feature that makes it a more desirable place to live and work.

I’m proud to serve on key committees that can help strengthen Camden’s position. The latest example of that focus is the work we did to secure investments for wastewater system improvements in government funding legislation.

We’ve long known the opportunities in the area make it ripe for job growth and development. That’s why my staff and I have been engaged with local and state leaders and defense company officials about how to ensure Arkansans are trained in the skills these employers need, enhance transportation, expand access to child care and improve infrastructure.

Last month we hosted our latest roundtable discussion to bring stakeholders together and identify what other progress is underway or on the horizon. This concerted approach will continue as we further build out the community’s role and cement Camden as the heartbeat for the arsenal of democracy.