NATICK, Mass. -- Brig. Gen. Daniel P. Hughes, the new senior commander of the Natick Soldier Systems Center, met with local media during a May 14 news conference at Grant Conference Center.

Hughes adds the Natick responsibilities to his continuing role as deputy commanding general of U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., the Army's key research, development and engineering organization.

"I'm honored and privileged to be the commander here at Natick," Hughes told the media. "The mission here is critical for the Army."

The son of a career Soldier, Hughes is no stranger to Massachusetts. He spent part of his youth here while his father was stationed at nearby Fort Devens, so he understands Natick's importance to the region.

"In my personal opinion, having an Army installation in New England ... is critical," Hughes said. "This is the home of the United States Army, the birthplace."

Hughes praised Dr. Jack Obusek, who took over as senior manager at Natick after the departure of Brig. Gen. John J. McGuiness. Obusek will continue as director of Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Command, or NSRDEC.

"He has set the environment here," said Hughes of Obusek. "It is really a great environment to work at. He has done -- I want to say very clearly -- a great job. What a great civil servant that we have in Dr. Obusek."

Hughes said that he will work to make full use of every taxpayer dollar that Natick receives.

"Return on investment is something I always talk about," Hughes said. "The folks (at Natick) are doing an outstanding job taking that ... taxpayer money and producing products that Soldiers (use) every day. We need to continue to invest in our science, technology, research and engineering here."

Hughes talked about the importance of caring for the civilian workforce at Natick.

"I want to make this the best place in the Army to work, and Dr. Obusek has done a great job preparing that," Hughes said. "Our human capital plan has got to include an upgrade of our infrastructure so that we have a world-class environment for our folks."

Asked about what changes he planned for Natick, Hughes replied that he would spend the next month or so examining how the installation operates.

"We'll make adjustments as we go along to make it even better," said Hughes, "but I believe that the staff has done an outstanding job keeping this place running."

Hughes called NSRDEC "really the backbone for our Program Executive Officers as they do the engineering to produce systems we field to Soldiers." He added that the vital work must not cease.

"Every day it gets better, but we still need to do more, because the enemy, every day, (are) creating capabilities to defeat what we create, so we've got to get better," Hughes said. "The foundation of the Army, the strength of the Army, is Soldiers. The future for our Soldier equipment is here."

Though he is still finalizing his schedule between Aberdeen and Natick, the 30-year Army veteran said he expected to spend a minimum of two days here every other week.

"I plan to spend a lot of time up here at Natick," Hughes said. "I will make the best of my time on both ends."

Hughes obviously was pleased to be taking the reins at Natick.

"As a bottom line, I see this place as a gem. It really is," Hughes said. "If you walk around, you palpably feel the energy of the workforce that's here doing great things for our Soldiers -- every, single day. They can walk out the door proud of what they do."