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The Podium

Massachusetts is the hub of military innovation

Jonathan Wiggs Photo/Globe staff file photo

Jonathan Wiggs Photo/Globe staff file photo

Massachusetts’ military tradition dates back to the founding of our nation. Today, Massachusetts continues that tradition by leading the way with next-generation technologies critical to our military’s future.

As Congress finalizes 2014 spending and looks ahead to long-term budgets, it has recognized that reducing deficit spending and finding a balanced approach to funding challenges in our government is a necessary reality. However, these challenges present a hidden opportunity for our nation to innovate efficiently as the military seeks to adopt a more adaptive profile. These innovations will provide the military with advanced operational capabilities, allowing it to remain the world’s greatest fighting force in a cost-effective manner.

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To prepare for future threats, our nation’s military is staying a step ahead by equipping soldiers with modern resources to stay safe and execute their missions with greater precision. Massachusetts is at the center of groundbreaking developments, both in terms of modernizing our force and reducing military spending.

Massachusetts’ bases are able to take advantage of a high-quality workforce, world-class educational institutions, and advanced technological companies in our high-tech cluster. With over 300 universities within Boston’s 90-mile radius, our region has a unique concentration of brainpower. You cannot replicate that knowledge-based environment anywhere else in the country.

The results are unmatched capabilities and benefits for our armed forces, and a local economic driver and job creator. Massachusetts’ bases employ 46,000 people and have an economic impact of $14.2 billion.

In recognition of the opportunities in this sector, the Military Asset and Security Strategy Task Force, which we co-chair, was established to support Massachusetts’ military bases by focusing on innovation and infrastructure to strengthen what already makes us a great state in which to live, work, and do business. The task force has been able to identify opportunities to modernize facilities, help base’s reduce costs, and leverage the innovative capabilities developed here in support of military missions.

We are also leading the way with funding to invest in opportunities that align well with our strengths. We are finalizing an offer to the Air Force to invest up to $2.9 million at a facility at Hanscom Air Force Base designed to realistically test and integrate advanced software, cyber and network applications and expand private sector opportunities.

The task force is looking at endeavors like this where funding benefits the military and industry at each of our six bases. For example, when Barnes Air National Guard Base needed a new runway, the task force got to work. A new runway benefits both the Guard and the municipal airport, and allows the essential flying mission and 1000-plus jobs at Barnes to remain. The state’s $9 million was coupled with more than $14 million in federal and city funding. This project would not have occurred without this collaborative approach.

Our efforts have gained the attention of top Defense Department officials. In the past two months, several of the military’s highest-ranking leaders and decision-makers, including the Chief of Staff of the Air Force General Mark Welsh and the Chief of Staff of the Army General Raymond Odierno, visited Massachusetts to examine the cost-saving partnerships and cutting-edge technological advancements we have developed.

The significance of Massachusetts’ installations, including the only active duty Army and Air Force installations in New England, at Natick Soldier Systems Center and Hanscom, was on display during these recent visits, as were the talented minds pioneering technological breakthroughs.

Following their visits, Welsh commented on the “phenomenal alignment of interests” in Massachusetts and Odierno stated that thanks to the unique synergy of this region, Natick has a “bright future.”

Our nation will always confront threats and our military will constantly need to execute future missions with fewer resources. Unlike any time in history, the military needs the best minds and talent to help them address these threats in the face of fiscal constraints. Massachusetts has that expertise and continues to be an enthusiastic and willing partner. Along with our counterparts at every level of government, we stand ready to build on the momentum and successes these recent visits so appropriately highlighted.

Governor Deval Patrick, US Rep. Niki Tsongas, and former Senator Mo Cowan are co-chairs of the Massachusetts Military Asset and Security Strategy Task Force.
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