Defense Bill OK’d with amendment designed to help lab in Rome

The National Defense Authorization Act that passed Friday in the House was voted for by local Rep. Richard Hanna, who said it includes an amendment that should help clarify future plans for the Air Force Research Laboratory including its Rome site.

The annual defense policy act also prohibits a new round of a military base realignment and closure process, commonly called BRAC, from being planned or carried out in 2013.

The amendment involving the lab requires the secretary of defense to submit a report that will "seek clear commitments and address specific, detailed questions about the future of Rome Lab and the other Air Force Research Laboratories," according to an announcement by Hanna, R-24, Barneveld.

The report also will address plans for national cyber operations, said Hanna, who remarked that such operations are "vitally important to the defense of this nation and Rome Lab is at the core of this model. We are confident that we will now have a detailed report that will show just how critical our research labs are to our national security."

Among mandated report topics, said Hanna spokeperson Renee Gamela, will be future budget commitments, ways in which additional scientists and engineers are to be recruited and retained for operations at Rome, and efforts to further collaborate with the private sector and institutes of higher education throughout upstate New York.

Hanna had expressed concern in February over a proposed 2013 defense budget cut of about $30 million for the Rome lab including an impact on vital programs. A defense appropriations/funding bill for 2013 is expected next month, said Gamela.

Hanna said "top officials from the Air Force Research Laboratory and the Pentagon have assured me that they’re committed to the long-term viability of Rome Lab and it is because Rome has established itself as the center of cutting-edge research." Hanna "has been given explicit assurances that the funding for Rome Lab will be increased by $27.4 million" in fiscal 2014, said Gamela.

Current staffing at the Rome lab in Griffiss park, is about 788 civilian and military positions plus about 548 contractors.