Breathing new life into Army labs
October 26, 2010
NATICK, Mass. - How can one support the war fighter and attract the talent that will continue doing so for years to come at the Natick Soldier Systems Center'
Ask Carl Boquist, and he will tell you that lab revitalization is one way. Boquist, the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command facilities, logistics and environmental director, came to Natick Oct. 20 for the Laboratory Revitalization and Recapitalization Program (LRRP) Workshop.
"Lab (revitalization) is a major success story for us," said Boquist, who reminded those in attendance that 11,450 of the Army's 17,000 engineers and scientists work for RDECOM. "They are the leading experts in their field," said Boquist, "and we want to continue to maintain that and to improve on that. One of the issues is attracting the right people. Lab (revitalization) is a portion of that."
Those experts work mostly in seven major laboratories and research centers across the country.
"We do everything from aviation and missile research all the way to simulation and modeling centers, and the Soldier and support functions that are done here in Natick," Boquist said.
That includes 1,200 research projects under way with 326 universities.
"We're technology driven and war fighter focused," Boquist said. "We have folks that are forward deployed at activities and agencies all around the world."
The LRRP increased the minor construction limit per project from $750,000 to $2 million.
"It enables more projects with higher valuations to be approved at the local level and with funds other than Military Construction, Army, which makes them significantly easier to plan for and execute," said Hugh Hardin, U.S. Army Garrison Natick deputy garrison commander.
Boquist said $22.3 million worth of lab revitalization was done in the first year. Another $22.94 million is in the pipeline for 12 projects from FY2010 to FY12. Two of those projects are at Natick.
"Lab revitalization is a vitally needed effort on Natick," Hardin said. "We are competing with the best research companies in America for top scientific talent, and we need to be able to offer facilities that can compete with theirs."
Boquist said the LRRP began two years ago.
"We started implementing right away," Boquist recalled. "There's been a little bit of a learning curve. We've moved forward. "In the R&D world, it's really difficult for facilities guys to assess what the needs are beyond what the condition is from an infrastructure standpoint."
Boquist pointed out that lab revitalization wasn't intended to modernize the entire infrastructure or to buy equipment.
"It's not a panacea to fix all our problems out there," said Boquist, adding that the program instead responds to "immediate needs."
Bill Allen of the Facilities Policy Division at the Office of the Assistant Chief of Staff for Installation Management, agreed.
"Laboratory (revitalization) is just one tool in the engineer's toolbox to try and help the laboratories work," Allen said. "It's all about the Soldier when it comes right down to it. It's all about the Soldier."