By Bob Reinert, USAG-Natick Public AffairsAugust 14, 2013
NATICK, Mass. (Aug. 14, 2013) -- As part of his "STEM Tour of Massachusetts," Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy III visited Natick Soldier Systems Center, Aug. 14.
Kennedy, who represents the 4th Congressional District of Massachusetts, met Gains in Engineering, Mathematics and Sciences, or GEMS, students, and then was given an overview about science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM.
Kennedy also received an overview on NSSC, visited the Porter STEM Laboratory GEMS demonstrations, and was briefed on laser eye protection and the Thermal Test Facility.
Brig. Gen. Daniel P. Hughes, NSSC senior commander, told Kennedy that even as Natick works to develop the next generation of scientists and engineers, budgetary uncertainty makes it difficult to hang onto the talented workforce it has now.
"We're going to lose a lot of great folks that we've spent a lot of years developing," Hughes said.
The congressman was making his first visit to Natick since taking office in January. Honorary chair of Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick's STEM Advisory Council, Kennedy is a member of the House Committee on Science and Technology and a member of the Congressional STEM Caucus.
Kennedy was accompanied on the tour by members of his congressional staff and by Massachusetts Secretary of Education Matthew Malone and Adam Freudberg, senior policy advisor and executive director of the Military Task Force in the governor's office.
After the tour, Kennedy and Malone spoke to and took questions from the local news media.
"It was an absolutely spectacular afternoon to get a sense of some of the capabilities of what happens here and to learn a bit about how important the research and development component is to protecting our troops," said Kennedy, adding how he saw "how the students here are actually becoming teachers and actually reaching out to middle schoolers and high schoolers and getting them excited about science and igniting a passion for the type of careers and work that is going to end up saving lives in the future. So I'm absolutely honored to be able to be here today."
Malone, himself a Marine Corps combat veteran, said that the NSSC STEM approach could be replicated across Massachusetts.
"They've gone out of their way to invite public school kids onto their base during the summer to do a lot of hands-on work," Malone said. "They figured out a methodology that makes sense.
"I think we've got a beachhead," Malone continued. "This is marathon work, and it takes a long time, but by having a beachhead such as this, we can continue to move forward."
Kennedy was asked about the impacts of sequestration and recent employee furloughs on the Natick workforce.
"That's not talent that you can easily attract back," Kennedy said. "Sequestration is something that I've been outspoken about from even before I took office. There's a smart way to confront those fiscal challenges and there's a dumb way to do it, and I think the sequester certainly is not the best approach."
Kennedy said he would "try to take some of the lessons, the stories that we heard today, back down to Washington to my colleagues and let them know how important it is to find a different fix."