Massachusetts senators press feds for update on semiconductor lab at Hanscom Air Force Base
masslive.com September 21, 2023
(Tribune News Service) — A cadre of Bay State lawmakers on Capitol Hill have called on the U.S. Air Force to open up on the status of a planned semiconductor lab at a base outside Boston that they say serves a vital national security need.
Democratic U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey, joined by U.S. House Democratic Whip Katherine M. Clark, D- 5th District, and U.S. Reps. Lori Trahan, D- 3rd District, and Seth Moulton, D- 6th District, sent the letter to Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall on Wednesday, asking him for a status update on the projects at Hanscom Air Force Base in Bedford.
Work on the $279 million Compound Semiconductor Laboratory and Microsystem Integration Facility at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Lincoln Laboratory campus has already begun. And officials will start taking bids on a separate Engineering Prototyping Facility next year, a source with knowledge of the matter told MassLive.
In their letter, the lawmakers also asked Kendall for an update on efforts to update aging buildings and infrastructure at the MIT campus at the base, which “provides critical support for U.S. national security.
“The documented facility deterioration threatens [its] future ability to provide advanced mission-enabling technologies to the military,” the lawmakers wrote.
The Air Force awarded the contract for the semiconductor laboratory in February 2022, saying the project would provide the new, 161,000 square-foot compound that’s “required for development of advanced technologies.”
Construction is expected to be completed by 2025, the Air Force said in its statement at the time.
“Resilient and sustainable infrastructure is critical to Air and Space Force operations and missions globally,” Col. Dave Norton, the deputy director of Air Force’s Civil Engineer Center’s Facilities Engineer Directorate, said in the statement.
The Air Force’s engineering center “continues to partner with installations enterprise-wide to provide integrated infrastructure solutions required for effective execution of their missions and priorities,” Norton continued.
In their Wednesday letter, the lawmakers stressed the importance of both phases of the project, noting that they wanted to ensure “that both projects remain on track.”
The lawmakers also said they wanted to “[seek]clarity on future funding for this project given variances in past budget requests for the project,” which first showed up on the Air Force’s budgetary radar in 2016, and was the product of seven years’ worth of advance legwork.
“We understand the challenges posed by the construction of the two unique, state-of-the-art facilities, but want to underscore that your engagement with this project has been, and remains, essential to its timely completion,” they wrote.
According to the Air Force, MIT’s lab at the base, which also is home 66th Air Base Group, dates to the 1950s, and it boasts “a long history of supporting the nation’s armed forces with technological advancements.”
That means, in turn, that researchers “[require] modern and safe facilities to continue to innovate technology for the nation such as radars, lasers and microelectronics that are key to modern defense systems,” Norton said.
In their letter to Kendall, Warren, Markey, and the House lawmakers said much the same, noting that the projects will provide the “Defense Department with an urgently needed, trusted micro-electronics R&D capability.”
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