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Delegation to Air Force: Keep three-star officer at Hanscom

WASHINGTON _ Members of the House and Senate from Massachusetts appealed to the Air Force on Tuesday not to downgrade the status of the Electronic Systems Center at Hanscom Air Force Base in Bedford, the latest in a series of moves to shield the weapons development center from a nationwide restructuring plan.

In a letter to Air Force Secretary Michael B. Donnelly and Chief of Staff General Norton A. Schwartz, 11 members of the Bay State congressional delegation pressed their case that the electronics and computer research conducted at the center would be at risk if the service goes ahead with a plan to replace the three-star officer now in command with a lower-ranking two-star general with less clout.

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“It is essential that the vital electronic systems and cyber acquisitions work conducted at Hanscom continue to be overseen by at least a lieutenant general,” the lawmakers wrote.

Congress has already taken steps in the House and Senate to prevent the Air Force from making the change, which is part of a larger reshuffling of Air Force facilities that would require the Bedford center to report to another command in Ohio.

A provision in a pending defense bill in the House that was authored by Rep. Niki Tsongas of Lowell would prevent the Air Force from making any leadership changes at Hanscom without prior congressional approval. A similar measure championed by Sen. Scott P. Brown in the Senate version of the bill requires the Air Force to freeze any changes pending the results of a special study on the size and structure of the Air Force.

But those bills may not be passed by the full Congress in time to prevent the Air Force’s restructuring plan from going into affect as planned by October 1.

“We interpret these legislative developments as a unified bicameral declaration that ESC’s mission is too valuable to understate the impact that downgrading Hanscom’s leadership will have on our armed forces’ ability to bring forth the most effective cyber tools and resources to meet national security needs,” the letter sent Tuesday states.

Bryan Bender can be reached at bender@globe.com.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeBender
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