Udall, Heinrich: New Mexico Ideal Location To Expand Defense Technology Innovation Hub

U.S. Sen. Tom Udall

STATE News:

  • In letter to Defense Secretary, senators say NM labs and bases are perfectly positioned to advance defense technology

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich announced that they have asked Defense Secretary Ashton Carter to consider opening a “Defense Innovation Unit Experimental” (DIUx) office in New Mexico as part of the military’s mission to widen the technology gap between the United States and its adversaries.

U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich

DIUx offices have been opened in regions with a strong high-tech presence to help improve ties between government and private industry and to seek out new technologies for the Department of Defense. In a letter to Carter, the senators wrote that New Mexico, with its national laboratories, military and university research labs, and high tech business community, would be valuable in advancing future military capabilities and developing cutting-edge technologies.

“We encourage you to consider New Mexico a resource for DIUx missions because innovation is at the heart of our state,” the senators wrote in the letter sent Sept. 22. “Through its four military installations, two national labs, three research universities, and numerous private sector businesses, New Mexico can provide essential resources and expertise to advance the DIUx mission.” 

Secretary Carter has announced that he will visit New Mexico today and tomorrow.

The DIUx initiative, part of the Department’s “Third Offset” strategy, started in August 2015 at Moffett Federal Airfield in California and has since expanded to locations in Silicon Valley, Boston, and Austin, Texas. Staffed by a combination of civilian, active duty, reserve, and contractor personnel, the initiative involves technologists, investors and business executives. 

In their letter to Carter, the senators wrote that New Mexico is at the center of a number of projects important to the next generation of defense technology — including the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Directed Energy Directorate at Kirtland Air Force Base; Remotely Piloted Aircraft training at Holloman Air Force Base; Special Forces at Cannon Air Force Base; Research, Development, Test and Evaluation (RDT&E) at White Sands Missile Range; the growing high-tech business community supported by the Sandia Science & Technology Park; and the expert scientists at Los Alamos and Sandia national labs, and the small businesses that support them.

They added: “New Mexico also can provide DIUx the brain power needed to accomplish its mission. New Mexico boasts one of the highest concentrations of PhDs per capita in the nation, supported by its robust and renowned university system, many of which already have a long-standing working relationship with the regional military bases. New Mexico universities are consistently recognized as top research institutions in the nation, and have supported our national security initiatives since World War II, supporting development of explosive and rocket testing, as well as the tracking of national assets in space.”  

“A successful DIUx mission in New Mexico will serve as a hub, connecting the DOD to the robust Southwest tech industry, similar to what Silicon Valley and Boston have done for Northern California and the Northeast,” the senators concluded. “We invite you or the DIUx team to tour New Mexico and see firsthand how it can bolster the DIUx mission.”

Full text of the letter is available here and below.

September 22, 2016
The Honorable Ashton Carter, Ph.D.
Secretary of Defense
1000 Defense Pentagon
Washington, DC 20301-1000

Dear Secretary Carter:

We are encouraged by your efforts to widen the technology gap between the United States and its adversaries. As you are most certainly aware, this critical gap in capabilities has been shrinking in recent years, dangerously increasing risk to our forces around the globe. We write in strong support of your efforts to focus on and fund future technologies through the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental (DIUx) and other programs.

With this in mind, we encourage you to consider New Mexico a resource for DIUx missions because innovation is at the heart of our state. Through its four military installations, two national labs, three research universities, and numerous private sector businesses, New Mexico can provide essential resources and expertise to advance the DIUx mission.

New Mexico’s military installations are in a clear position to directly support DIUx and Third Offset Initiatives. Whether it is the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Directed Energy Directorate at Kirtland Air Force Base, the Remotely Piloted Aircraft training at Holloman Air Force Base, the Special Forces at Cannon Air Force Base, or the cutting-edge RDT&E capabilities at White Sands Missile Range, these military installations provide a blueprint for advancing future innovation and capabilities.

Besides our strong military community, New Mexico also can provide DIUx the brain power needed to accomplish its mission. New Mexico boasts one of the highest concentrations of PhDs per capita in the nation, supported by its robust and renowned university system, many of which already have a long-standing working relationship with the regional military bases. New Mexico universities are consistently recognized as top research institutions in the nation, and have supported our national security initiatives since World War II, supporting development of explosive and rocket testing, as well as the tracking of national assets in space.  

New Mexico’s most unique asset, our national labs, are well-positioned to enhance the DIUx mission. These Federally Funded Research and Development Centers (FFRDCs) are already attracting some of our nation’s top engineers and scientists to advance the modernization of the nuclear weapons enterprise and, as the Department of Defense knows well, are effectively leveraging those talents to find solutions to our nation’s most-pressing national security challenges.

The FFRDCs provide a hub of research and development professionals, scientific excellence, and are the epicenter of federal government research into breakthrough supercomputing, energy, and national security solutions.  In recognizing the potential contributions of the FFRDCs, the Senate Appropriations Committee in the Department of Defense Appropriations Bill for Fiscal Year 2017, “urges the Department of Defense to include FFRDCs in its offset strategy and to commit to increased partnerships with FFRDCs and the small businesses which support them.” Through FFRDC small business engagement programs such as the Technology Ventures Corporation, New Mexico Small Business Assistance, and the LANS Venture Acceleration, which actively seek and develop small business innovation, New Mexico provides an excellent opportunity to achieve this Congressional intent.

Lastly, Albuquerque, a core of New Mexico innovation, boasts a growing high-tech business community supported by the Sandia Science & Technology Park. Many of the companies hosted by the Park have direct relationships with its neighbors, Sandia National Laboratories and Kirtland Air Force Base. Albuquerque and the rest of New Mexico provide the Department of Defense and other government agencies with already well-established and successful public-private partnerships, which serve to advance future capabilities and develop cutting-edge technologies, the exact outcome DIUx seeks to achieve.

A successful DIUx mission in New Mexico will serve as a hub, connecting the DOD to the robust Southwest tech industry, similar to what Silicon Valley and Boston have done for Northern California and the Northeast. We invite you or the DIUx team to tour New Mexico and see firsthand how it can bolster the DIUx mission.

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