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Public Affairs Office title

U.S. Army Soldier & Biological Chemical Command
U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center-Natick
Public Affairs Office
Kansas Street
Natick, MA 01760-5012

Contact: Chief, Public Affairs Office
(508) 233-5340
amssb-opa@natick.army.mil

Date: December 23, 2002
No: 02-59

Congressman supports installation remaining open

NATICK, Mass. -- What saved the U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center from being on the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) list in 1995 needs to be emphasized again, said U.S. Rep. Edward Markey, as the Department of Defense is set for another round of base closures in 2005.

Markey, who represents the 7th District, visited the Soldier Systems Center Dec. 11 to get a refresher on the scope of work done here and was reminded of the importance of keeping the installation open in Natick, the Army's only active installation in New England.

"The point we were making then is relevant now," Markey said, as he recalled his visit here with the assistant secretary of defense in 1995. "(The Army) didn't fully calculate the cost of replicating the labs elsewhere, and in fact once they understood what went on, they realized it would be more expensive to move it."

He also said to move an installation such as Fort Devens or a Naval shipyard could make sense, but moving the labs in Natick doesn't make sense from a technological standpoint. The relationship that has formed from the various and multi-service organizations within the Soldier Systems Center and from the surrounding area would be dismantled.

"So we need to build that case again because it won last time. We shouldn't confuse what we contribute to the success of the military," Markey said.

Several state and local officials as well as area business leaders were also invited to listen to the overviews of the Soldier Systems Center, the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine (USARIEM), Natick Soldier Center, Navy Clothing and Textile Research Facility (NCTRF), National Protection Center and a new construction project approved for the DoD Combat Feeding Directorate.

The Soldier Systems Center is responsible for researching, developing and sustaining food, clothing, shelters, airdrop systems and soldier support items for all branches of the military.

"Considering the connection to the significant academic community in the immediate proximity, I could not see us being able to accomplish the amount of science somewhere else," Col. John Obusek, USARIEM commander, said during his briefing. USARIEM conducts basic and applied research to protect the health and maintain the performance of warfighters.

Sue Reeps, with the NCTRF, said her organization moved from its previous location to Natick to be close to the Army's textile facilities because most of the expertise is located here.

A $4.1 million expansion of the food labs is scheduled for completion by the next round of base closings and further "proves for BRAC how indispensable we are," Markey said.

The final briefing was on the Natick Soldier Center's National Protection Center. The organization serves as the focal point for advancing and leveraging individual and integrated personal protection technologies between military and public sector civilian emergency response personnel.

Markey brought up terrorism, Saddam Hussein, chemical and biological weapons, and the means to protect Americans against the weapons with items that are researched and developed at Natick.

"We know we can inflict an enormous amount of damage on them. The question becomes how much damage can they inflict on us," he said. "I think Natick Labs is one of the key weapons in our arsenal to protect our people. The more imaginative we can be with our programs and partnerships with the state at all levels, the better positioned we will be for the next (base closing) round."

The U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center is part of the U.S. Army Soldier and Biological Chemical Command (SBCCOM). For more information about SBCCOM or the Center, please visit our website at http://www.sbccom.army.mil.

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