Following a tour of Hanscom Air Force Base this morning, state, local and federal officials addressed how cuts at the base would affect the local economy and national defense.
Hanscom was the second stop on Lt. Gov. Timothy Murray's Massahusetts military base tour and Murray was joined Monday by U.S. Sen. John Kerry, Congresswoman Niki Tsongas and Air Force base leaders. Afterwards, there was a meeting of the , which included a roundtable discussion at MIT Lincoln Laboratory, a defense company located near the base in Lexington.
“Through proactive planning, Massachusetts has and will continue to position the state to protect our military bases,” said Murray in a statement. “Massachusetts' strong military presence and related defense industry is critical to our economy and our residents. Through the work of this Task Force, the Patrick-Murray Administration will work tirelessly with our congressional delegation and partners across the state to keep Hanscom Air Force Base, the Electronic Systems Center and all of Massachusetts' military bases open and their missions intact.”
Addressing potential deep cuts at Hanscom on Monday, Murray and Tsongas touched on what the base means in terms of local jobs and national defense.
Murray noted Hanscom is the state's 10th largest employer and there are between 14,000 and 15,000 jobs with direct or indirect ties to the base. "So we want to put our best foot forward" in making a case for the base, he seaid.
Tsongas spoke about Hanscom as an ideal site for cyber security research and development, given the work being done there and the universities and hi-tech companies surrounding the base.
"There are resources here you won't find in other parts of the country," Tsongas said, adding that the potential loss of that intellectual capital could hamper the military's intelligence gathering capabilities and defense strategies.
Local, state and federal officials have mobilized in defense of Hanscom and other Massachusetts military bases in recent months as the U.S. Department of Defense announced a plan to slash federal defense spending by $500 billion over the next decade and the Pentagon requested that Congress authorize a Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC).
Last month, , articulating concerns about the impact deep cuts at Hanscom, an active base and large employer, would have on the military and economy.
“In particular, we would like to identify a point person for this effort in the Massachusetts delegation and learn more about what Lexington and other Hanscom area town can do as active participants,” the letter reads. “Let’s develop a strategy that will protect the vitality of HAFB and the quality of life of its personnel and those veterans who have served their country for years to come.”
Following the tour and roundtable discussion on Monday, March 5, Lexington Town Manager Carl Valente said any local residents interested in supporting Hanscom should reach out to their federal delegates.
Sen. Kerry, who was on base for the March 5 tour, said it's important to be "all hands on deck" and tell the story of Hanscom.
"The reality is, tough budget choices will be made and we've got to be all hands on deck to ensure that the mission and workers at Hanscom aren't hurt in the process," said Kerry in a statement. "We've got a good story to tell and we're going to tell it, because technologies and equipment conceptualized, researched, developed and manufactured at facilities across Massachusetts help the military execute its mission at the highest levels. Lt. Gov. Murray and I want them to know we get it and we know what their work means to our state, country and for national security."
This isn't the first time in recent memory that officials have had to defend Hanscom AFB.
Speaking with , D-Lincoln, recalled working with a local coalition and then Gov. Mitt Romney and Sen. Ted Kennedy to fend of pressure to close the the base during the BRAC round in 2005.
“To keep Hanscom open and vital and vibrant will require experienced people and, so far, I’m the only one with that experience,” said Fargo, who has since announced plans to retire from her seat representing the Third Middlesex District. “The stakes are very, very high not only for Lincoln, not only for this region, but for the state as a whole. We are beginning to put the pieces together of the coalition that will have to be effective in Washington to keep the base open. A freshman senator would have a hard time playing that role.”