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US Air Force chief of staff tours Hanscom Air Force Base, MIT Lincoln Labs

Posted by Jaclyn Reiss  November 11, 2013 06:45 PM

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Walter Santos for the US Air Force

Second Lt. Thomas Wesley demonstrates counter-improvised explosive device technologies developed in Hanscom to Air Force chief of staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III, Gen. Janet Wolfenbarger, and US Reps. John Tierney and Niki Tsongas.

A local military base has recently caught the eye of national armed services officials as a local Congresswoman is pushing for federal funds to renovate MIT-affiliated laboratories there.

The US Air Force's chief of staff, Gen. Mark A. Welsh III, toured the Hanscom Air Force Base in Bedford last week at the urging of US Rep. Niki Tsongas, who represents dozens of communities west and north of Boston.

Welsh also toured the MIT Lincoln Laboratory, located on the base, at Tsongas' request as she pushes for $450 million in federal funds to renovate the facility, which specializes in developing long-term defense technology.

“Massachusetts’ military installations, especially Hanscom, are developing cutting edge technologies which are helping the Air Force address some of its most pressing challenges and we stand ready to support that mission in any way we can," Tsongas said in a statement. "Our hub of innovation is helping to keep soldiers safe and successful around the world and we are grateful General Welsh was willing to take the time to see it for himself.”

Welsh, who oversees the training and equipping of about 690,000 Air Force members and is the principal military advisor to the Air Force secretary, also met with Gov. Deval Patrick, US Sen. Edward Markey, US Ssen. Elizabeth Warren, and US Rep. John Tierney to discuss the base's impacts on Massachusetts and the nation.

Top local and state officials also invited Welsh to the State House in Boston last week to discuss how Massachusetts proves a key part in national military defense.

"Hanscom Air Force Base is the country’s front line of our national defense along the East Coast," said Markey, noting that he would fight against any budget cuts to the facility. "More than just a military base, the research, development and innovation being done at Hanscom helps fuel the Massachusetts economy, creating jobs and sharpening our edge in technology."

Welsh also gave the keynote speech at the Lincoln Laboratory's Veteran’s Day ceremony Thursday.

“It’s clear to me that Massachusetts is committed to an enduring partnership with its military bases and, specifically, its Airmen,” Welsh said in a statement after he toured the base. "I’m impressed by the collaboration demonstrated by leaders of government, industry, academia and other organizations, all of whom are focused on helping the Air Force and Department of Defense more effectively meet our national security objectives.”

Tsongas said that the US Army's chief of staff, Gen. Ray Odierno, will visit the Natick Army Labs in a few weeks to learn more about development happening there.

Last year, US Secretary of the Army John McHugh visited the Natick labs for the first time, calling the facility's work "valuable" and "enduring."

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Jaclyn Reiss can be reached at jaclyn.reiss@globe.com

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