By Bob Reinert, USAG-Natick Public AffairsMarch 18, 2013
NATICK, Mass. (March 18, 2013) -- U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts visited the Natick Soldier Systems Center March 15 as the installation braced for the impact of across-the-board budget cuts, known as sequestration.
In her first visit to Natick, Warren, who was elected to the Senate in November 2012, received an overview of the work done here for service members, learned about Gender Neutral Standards being developed for combat positions, was introduced to female body armor, inspected high-performance fibers, toured the Ouellette Thermal Test Facility, and met with the media.
"Thank you for taking care of all three of my brothers. They were all in the military," Warren said. "You outfitted them and took care of them. And I just want to say, years later, I'm grateful for that. Thank you for all you do all the time."
A former Harvard Law School professor, Warren pointed out that she understood Natick's importance as a research facility.
"I've been studying what you do from the outside, actually, for years," Warren said. "I've been an enthusiastic supporter for a long time. You're a good partner to the American people. I want to be a good partner to you."
Jack Obusek, Ph.D., NSSC senior manager and director of the Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center, told Warren of the installation's unique facilities.
"We're going to give you a snapshot of what we do here for our nation's most precious defense asset -- Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen," Obusek said.
The female body armor was named one of Time Magazine's "Best Inventions of the Year 2012." The new armor was designed to offer better protection and to prevent bruised hip bones that women experienced when wearing improved outer tactical vests meant to fit smaller men.
At the Thermal Test Facility, Warren witnessed a four-second flash-fire done with eight burners on a full-scale, instrumented manikin. The TTF tests the flame resistance of uniform and equipment materials.
"You're saving lives here," said Warren to the TTF staff.
Natick, which opened in 1954, has an estimated annual economic impact of $4.5 billion. As part of the sequester, the 1,343 NSSC civilian employees face administrative furloughs of one day per week over 22 weeks beginning in late April, amounting to 20-percent pay loss through the end of the fiscal year. The furloughs are expected to save nearly $10 million.
The only active-duty Army installation in New England, Natick is also reducing base operations funding by 30 percent, suspending overtime, placing severe restrictions on official travel, curtailing training and attendance at professional technical meetings, reducing purchase of supplies, suspending real property restoration and modernization work, and terminating site maintenance, repair and cleaning contracts.
Warren, who was accompanied by Massachusetts State Senator Karen Spilka, said she was worried about sequestration and determined to fight it.
"This is a place that saves lives, and it's a place that innovates," Warren said. "It innovates to protect our military, and it innovates for the rest of our country. It is also a place that reminds me how damaging the sequester will be. It is absolutely the wrong approach to trying to deal with our finances.
"Across-the-board cuts are bad for Natick, they're bad for Massachusetts, they are bad for our country," she continued. "They interrupt critical work that's being done here that would save money for the United States Government and, more importantly, save the lives of our military."
Warren warned that sequestration could affect innovation at Natick and have a negative impact on the future.
"Natick represents the best in what we do and what we are," Warren said. "Everything developed here moves on over to the private side and supports a lot of industry and a lot of development. This is the front edge of who we are and what we do."