By Kathy Gattis
Arnold Community Council (ACC), a group who supports and promotes AEDC, recently made its annual trip to Capitol Hill for meetings with elected officials and key staffers at the Pentagon. The group also collaborated with support councils from Edwards and Eglin Air Force Bases.
One of the ACC's primary objectives was to encourage membership in the newly formed "testing center' caucus.
The caucus will focus on the Major Range and Test Facility Bases (MRTFB), considered national assets because of their test and evaluation missions. AEDC is part of that group.
Tennessee's 6th District Congressman Diane Black formed a bipartisan Congressional Range and Testing Center Caucus earlier this year and will co-chair the group.
"I launched the Congressional Range and Testing Center Caucus because I want to make certain that my colleagues in Congress recognize the strategic value of our nation's range and testing centers," Black said. "It is my goal to see that AEDC and installations like it across the country are equipped with the tools they need to carry out their missions.
"The caucus will amplify the voice of AEDC in Congress," she said. "It will also help Congress better understand AEDC's value and purpose."
Twenty members of Congress have joined the caucus so far. Black says the caucus will make site visits to the MRTFB installations and receive briefings from high-ranking DOD officials. Topics will include how Congress oversees the T&E budget and the MRTFB and the role of MRTFB installations in the acquisitions process. In addition, community support groups will receive visits from the delegation.
"The caucus is critical for the future protection of test center funding," said ACC president and one of the trip's organizers, Steve Cope.
"I believe AEDC is critical to the safety of our nation's future flight vehicle, but also very critical to the economic future of our entire middle Tennessee area," Cope said.
Mike Niederhauser, the ACC community and public relations representative, worked with Black and Congressman Kilmer (also a caucus co-chair) to host a breakfast on Capitol Hill. The event was attended by many elected officials and their staffers who planned to participate in the new caucus.
"Mike Niederhauser did so much prep work to pull this together," Cope said. "This was one of the most successful trips I've been associated with concerning ACC."
The group also met with leaders of the Antelope Valley Board of Trade and the Edwards Civ-Mil (Edwards AFB, Calif. support groups) and the Defense Support Initiative (Eglin AFB, Fla. support group). They even attended some meetings jointly -- the meetings at the Pentagon and meetings with elected officials on the House and Senate Armed Services Committees.
ATA sent several of their key staffers on the trip with the ACC members -- Phil Stich, Mark Rigney and Dr. Rob McAmis.
"It was interesting to see some of the inter-workings of our U.S. government during the trip," said ATA Deputy General Manager Phil Stich. "It was also very evident how much the ACC cares about AEDC. I want to thank the members of the ACC who donate their time and efforts in support of AEDC."
In addition to encouraging caucus membership, ACC talked about the quick lease of AEDC land; AEDC's ability to accept new missions; establishing AEDC as a Hypersonic Ground Test Center of Excellence with the University of Tennessee providing a High Speed Systems Study and an outlet for Science, Technology, Education and Math (STEM); more flexibility for Test Center and Complex Commanders; and some regulatory relief and streamlining the International Trafficking in Arms Regulation (ITAR).
Cope, along with about 20 other community leaders, travel to Washington, D.C. each year to promote AEDC and make sure the nation's elected officials don't forget the importance of the Complex and its mission.