Lieutenant Governor Timothy Murray today toured the U.S. Army's Natick Soldier Systems Center as part of his tour of military bases across the Commonwealth to build grassroots support to protect the missions, jobs and economic investments associated with the bases. Lieutenant Governor Murray was joined on the tour by U.S. Congresswoman Niki Tsongas, federal, state and local officials as well as leadership from the Massachusetts National Guard and the Natick Soldier Systems Center. The Natick Soldier Systems Center is the only active duty research installation in New England and one of only two in the country. The Natick Soldier Systems Center works to provide U.S. soldiers with the best equipment in the world, serving as the Army's one-stop soldier-support organization responsible for researching, developing, fielding and managing food, clothing, shelters, airdrop systems and soldier support items.
Following the tour, Lieutenant Governor Murray chaired a meeting of the Military Asset and Security Strategy Task Force, which included a roundtable discussion at the Morse Institute Public Library in Natick.
"Through proactive planning, Massachusetts has and will continue to position the state to protect our military bases," said Lieutenant Governor Murray. "By touring the bases, including the Natick Soldier System's Center, the Task Force is able to gather more information on each base to help promote the work of the missions and operations that protect our Commonwealth and national security. Natick's innovative mission is unique as one of only two active duty research installations in the country, and this research and technology is critical to serving our country's military. Our Administration will work tirelessly with our congressional delegation and partners across the state to keep the Natick Soldier System's Center and all of Massachusetts' military bases open and their missions intact."
Today's visit is the fifth of six initial visits to the state's military bases. In addition to the Natick Soldier Systems Center, Lieutenant Governor Murray has toured Barnes Air National Guard Base in Westfield, Hanscom Air Force Base, Westover Air Reserve Base in Chicopee, the Massachusetts Military Reservation on the Cape and plans to also tour Fort Devens in May.
"Natick Soldier Systems Center is one of the most important facilities in the United States Army," said U.S. Senator Scott Brown. "Their research is saving the lives of men and women in uniform every day and also shaping how the Army fights and wins future conflicts. I will continue working to enhance Natick's role in maintaining our nation's defense."
"The innovative work being done at the Natick Soldier Systems Center is equipping the American soldier for fighting on the battlefield in the 21st century," said U.S. Congressman Ed Markey. "I commend the leadership, military personnel, and civilians at the Natick Soldier Systems Center who have devoted their professional careers to ensuring our military is able to serve and defend the United States with the most cutting-edge technologies available today. The Natick Soldier Systems Center has long been the brainpower of the Department of Defense, and it has tremendous positive impact on the economy of Massachusetts and the MetroWest. I will continue to fight to ensure that this economic engine remains open and thrives into the future."
"The indispensible role that Natick Soldier Systems plays in supporting our service personnel is on display on the front lines in Afghanistan and is instrumental in preparing soldiers for almost any environment they encounter," said U.S. Congresswoman Tsongas. "Like many of our military installations in the state, the groundbreaking research being conducted at Natick is strongly supported by the high tech firms and outstanding educational institutions that are unique to Massachusetts. I will be working to ensure that it is able to continue to play this critical role for many years to come."
On February 27, 2012, Lieutenant Governor Murray signed an executive order establishing the Commonwealth's Military Asset and Security Strategy Task Force. The Task Force, which is chaired by Lieutenant Governor Murray, engages state agencies to work directly with stakeholders to develop and implement actions that will support military bases across the Commonwealth. Today's visit to the Natick Soldier Systems Center is just one example of the work the Task Force is leading.
The executive order builds on the work Lieutenant Governor Murray has led over the last year, including a series of strategy meetings with Administration cabinet secretaries and private sector groups such as the Massachusetts Defense Technology Initiative to gather current data and perspectives about each military base so Massachusetts can better position, promote and protect assets for each base. The Task Force will work towards completing a comprehensive strategic plan in the coming months.
In addition to engaging local and regional support to help promote and protect the state's military bases, the Task Force will develop, coordinate and implement actions in the areas of workforce training, infrastructure improvements, environmental and utility savings, housing and transportation to support the missions at military bases across the Commonwealth. Additionally, the Task Force will identify steps the state can take to remedy problem areas before preliminary recommendations from the federal government are adopted and missions are implemented. Lieutenant Governor Murray and members of the Task Force will advise the Governor, as well as other executive and legislative officials, regarding the ongoing efforts by the U.S. Department of Defense to close, realign, restructure, streamline, or in any way impact military bases in Massachusetts.
"Our military bases are part of the fabric of the Commonwealth and we're looking for new ways to maintain and enhance these facilities with investments in areas such as energy efficiency or clean energy, which create local jobs and upgrade existing infrastructure," said Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Richard K. Sullivan, Jr.
"The Patrick-Murray Administration has made strong investments in growing the Commonwealth's innovation economy and as a result, Massachusetts is a world leader in innovation and technology," said Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Greg Bialecki. "The Commonwealth's continued growth in the innovation industry allows our military, through the Natick Soldier Systems Center, to protect our young men and women who sacrifice so much with the best equipment in the world."
In January, the U.S. Department of Defense announced a plan to reduce federal defense spending by approximately $500 billion over the next decade as a result of federal deficit reduction negotiations. The Department of Defense explained that cuts would be achieved in part by reducing total force numbers and relying on technological advances to build a more streamlined military. The Pentagon also requested that Congress authorize a Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) to recommend the closure or consolidation of select military bases across the country.
"I commend Lieutenant Governor Murray for taking the initiative to bring together business, education, government and the community to support the important relationship that Massachusetts has with the defense industry -- particularly here near the Natick Soldier Systems Center," said Jack Wilson, chairman of the Defense Technology Initiative. "Massachusetts is home to a large number of jobs that directly and indirectly relate to the defense industry and forging this partnership on the community level is critical to this region, the Commonwealth, and the nation's economic and military security."
"We applaud Lieutenant Governor Murray and the Patrick Administration for recognizing the significant economic impact Natick Soldier Systems Center for Innovation brings to the MetroWest region," said Bonnie Biocchi, president and CEO of the MetroWest Chamber of Commerce. "The Administration's longstanding commitment to STEM Initiatives has assisted in the development of our highly trained workforce. This investment has been critical to cultivating the innovative technologies employed at the Natick Soldier Systems Center for Innovation which, in turn, yields the highest caliber of protection and support for the soldier. As one of the region's largest employers and drivers of the regional economy, the MetroWest Chamber will continue to support every initiative that ensures Natick Soldier Systems will continue to thrive in MetroWest."
"For almost sixty years, the U.S. Army has conducted some of its most advanced research on soldier equipment here at Natick Soldier Systems and I am incredibly proud to have this state-of-the-art facility in my district," said Senator Karen Spilka. "This event highlights the Administration's recognition of the important contributions this institution makes to our economy and overall security as a nation. I applaud the Lieutenant Governor for his active work to support our service men and women, foster collaboration among our military facilities and our communities, and identify new opportunities for this industry, which is essential to the economic vitality of the Commonwealth."
"The Natick Soldier Systems Center is the national leader in developing the innovative technology to support soldiers, such as uniforms, food, and shelter," said Representative David Linsky. "These designs are created to protect and prepare our military abroad. The roundtable discussion will allow elected officials, workforce development officials, industry officials, and community members to come together to discuss ways to improve the programs and facilities at the Natick Soldier Systems Center. I commend Lieutenant Governor Tim Murray and the Military Asset and Security Strategy Task Force for their exceptional dedication to investing in the future of the Natick Soldier Systems Center."
"The services provided by the Natick Soldier Systems Center in addressing the equipment needs of our soldiers are vital not only to the Commonwealth, but the whole country," said Representative Alice Peisch. "I am pleased that the Lieutenant Governor and the Military Asset and Security Strategy Task Force are hosting this discussion, which will help to explore additional ways to enhance base programs."
"The Natick Soldier Systems Center is important to our local economy and our national security, and we are proud to have it here in MetroWest," said Representative Tom Sannicandro.
During today's visit, Lieutenant Governor Murray also highlighted recent initiatives in support of the state's veterans and defense industry. The Patrick-Murray Administration's Fiscal Year 2013 budget proposal includes $11.25 million in increased funding for vital veterans' services, including workforce training. The defense industry and its workforce is also a major part of Massachusetts' economy with thousands of employees working at the state's military bases and more than $14 billion in defense contracts awarded to Massachusetts firms in 2010.
Since 2007, Lieutenant Governor Murray has led the Governor's Advisory Council on Veterans' Services and today's tour builds on the Administration's commitment to the Massachusetts veterans' community, our regional economies and the state's defense industry. To learn more about the Patrick-Murray Administration's commitment to Massachusetts veterans, visit: www.mass.gov/veterans. To learn about the work of the Military Asset and Security Strategy Task Force visit: http://www.mass.gov/governor/administration/ltgov/lgcommittee/military/.