In signing the bill on Wednesday, Obama wrote that the “restrictions on the Defense Department’s ability to retire unneeded ships and aircraft will divert scarce resources.”
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta last month similarly decried what many see as meddling. “There is pressure on the department to retain excess force structure and infrastructure instead of investing in the training and equipment that makes our force agile and flexible and ready,” Panetta told the National Press Club.
Massachusetts officials did not get everything they wanted. For example, the Air Force’s Electronic Systems Center at Hanscom Air Force Base in Bedford will now be folded under another command in Ohio and in the process be commanded by a two-star general instead of a three-star officer.
Local officials have expressed concern that less seniority will make the facility vulnerable to future cuts. The base accounts for thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in annual revenue.
But base officials on Friday maintained that the changes are only cosmetic.
“All of the major functions and missions at Hanscom remain; personnel simply report to the new center commander, who while stationed primarily in Ohio, maintains office space at other key locations including Hanscom,” said Chuck Paone, a spokesman for the weapon research and development center.
Other provisions in the bill will benefit Massachusetts, including $22 million for new training and maintenance facilities at Camp Edwards, located on the Massachusetts Military Reservation. Another $8.5 million was allocated for new barracks, classrooms, and a mini-market at Fort Devens.
Other funding is likely to benefit local contractors, including a major increase in military research for body armor, from $5.7 million last year to $26.9 million.
“For the first time it requires the military to develop body armor specifically designed for females,” said US Representative Niki Tsongas, a Lowell Democrat and member of the Armed Services Committee, who played a key role in advancing the state’s concerns. She said the Natick Soldier Systems Center, which develops military food, clothing, and shelters, is likely to see some of that funding.
Bryan Bender can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at GlobeBender