At a Sept. 18 House Armed Services Committee hearing on how sequestration will impact the Department of Defense in the coming year, US Rep Niki Tsongas questioned ranking military officials on how sequester cuts will impact civilian employees at bases in and around her district.
Tsongas, a Lowell Democrat whose 3rd Congressional District incldues Hanscom Air Force Base, on Wednesday highlighted nearby Natick Soldier Systems, a center that invests in science, systems and technology that protect soldiers.
"It is my understanding that they've sustained a workforce attrition of 52 personnel in this fiscal year, more than double the annual average, and including a number of Ph.Ds," said Tsongas. "For an installation that develops this life-saving equipment, we know that Ph.Ds are the heart and soul of research and development and technology and science."
Knowing sequestration won't be repealed "anytime soon," Tsongas asked how to protect the investment in that kind of work to know the United States will continue to be on the cutting edge of soldier protection.
According to a press release, witnesses at the hearing included Commandant of the Marine Corps General James F. Amos, Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Jonathan W. Greenert, Army Chief of Staff General Raymond T. Odierno, and Air Force Chief of Staff General Mark A. Welsh III.
In response to her inquiry, the press release said, Gen. Odierno agreed to look into programs which could help retain some of the armed forces talented civilian researchers at installations such as Natick and Hanscom, in an effort to continue to protect soldiers to the highest possible degree.
"Number One priority is our soldier systems," Odierno said. "The problem is, because we've had to go into a hiring freeze ... We are starting to lose some of our very important workforce, because they are uncertain about the future that they have working with us. We have to make sure that we maintain a balanced force that allows us to continue in our highest priority."
Watch the video above to hear Tsongas' full remarks and the response from Gen. Odierno.