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US Sen. Elizabeth Warren praises Natick Army Labs in mid-March visit

Posted by Jaclyn Reiss  March 18, 2013 04:30 PM

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Natick Soldier Systems Center

US Sen. Elizabeth Warren stands with Jack Obusek of the Natick Army Labs and state Sen. Karen Spilka during her visit to the Natick Army base last Friday.

As the Natick Soldier Systems Center prepares to cut 30 percent of its operational budget due to the budget cuts known as sequestration, US Senator Elizabeth Warren visited the base last Friday to learn more about the facility.

"This is a place that saves lives, and it's a place that innovates," Warren said at the Natick base. "It is also a place that reminds me how damaging the sequester will be."

The only active-duty Army installation in New England, the Natick Army Labs are responsible for researching and developing products that help service men and women perform better in the field.

The base has also developed many popular items Americans consume today, including GPS technology, Tang, and bullet-proof vests.

During her visit, Warren learned about the research done at the base, emphasizing tactics and uniforms that help female soldiers, among other general technology in the works.

"Natick represents the best in what we do and what we are," Warren said during her visit. "Everything developed here moves on over to the private side and supports a lot of industry and a lot of development."

As the base faces sequestration cuts, most of the base's employees - that's 1,343 civilians working there - face a 20 percent cut to their work week. Base leaders will also have to halt minor site maintenance, repairs and cleaning contracts to help make up for cutting out one-third of the operating budget.

The base would also tighten its belt on purchasing supplies, allocating professional development to employees, and curtailing travel for work.

“The research, engineering and development would continue, but instead of being conducted 5 days a week, it would be 4 days,” John Harlow, a base spokesman, previously told Boston.com. “It would take longer to do what we’re trying to do.”

During her visit, Warren, who said she had three brothers in the military, thanked base leaders for their research.

"You outfitted them and took care of them," she said Friday. "And I just want to say, years later, I'm grateful for that. Thank you for all you do all the time."

Warren also said that as a Harvard University law professor, she had studied the base for years, and had been an enthusiastic supporter.

"You're a good partner to the American people," she said.

Warren, who was accompanied by state Senator Karen Spilka, said she opposed the sequestration and would fight to resolve the issue.

"Across-the-board cuts are bad for Natick, they're bad for Massachusetts, they are bad for our country," Warren said. "They interrupt critical work that's being done here that would save money for the United States Government and, more importantly, save the lives of our military."

In a visit one year ago to the day, US Secretary of the Army John McHugh also lauded the Natick base, defending the facility as “valuable” and "enduring."

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Follow us on Twitter: @yourtownnatick, @jaclynreiss

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

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