WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, sent a letter to Major General Thomas J. Masiello, Commander of Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), urging action on streamlining small business contracting and expediting hiring at AFRL in New Mexico.
"Businesses collaborating with AFRL scientists generate success stories like CHAMP and achieve awards like the 2016 Excellence in Technology Transfer Award for Space Vehicle's composite Roll-Out Solar Array slit-tube boom. Despite these successes, my staff and I regularly hear from local small businesses about significant delays of one or more years before receiving approval from AFRL contracting in New Mexico. It is also my understanding that it often takes over a year to hire individuals and that 25 percent of AFRL billets in New Mexico remain vacant," wrote Senator Heinrich in the letter.
Major General Masiello manages a $2.1 billion Air Force science and technology program and an additional $2.3 billion in externally funded research and development, including the Directed Energy Directorate and Space Vehicles Directorate in New Mexico. According to a 2015 report by the University of New Mexico, AFRL New Mexico has an economic impact to the state of $536 million and supports more than 3,700 jobs. The study found AFRL directly spent $315 million in New Mexico on employee salaries and benefits, purchases of goods and services, construction, and contracts with New Mexico businesses.
The text of the letter is below and available here.
Major General Thomas J. Masiello
Street Building 15
Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, 45433-7130
Dear Major General Masiello:
Thank you for your recent efforts to initiate development of an interim capability of the Counter-electronics High Power Microwave Advanced Missile Project (CHAMP). Your leadership was necessary to overcome inertia and enable further technological progress on this important capability. I write today to request your leadership on two additional fronts: (1) delays in small business contracting and (2) delays in hiring.
Albuquerque, New Mexico is proud to host two Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) directorates: Space Vehicles and Directed Energy. AFRL makes a significant impact on the city and state of New Mexico. Conversely, the city is also significant to AFRL because the directorates work so closely with local contractors to achieve their mission of technology research and development (R&D). Businesses collaborating with AFRL scientists generate success stories like CHAMP and achieve awards like the 2016 Excellence in Technology Transfer Award for Space Vehicle's composite Roll-Out Solar Array slit-tube boom.
Despite these successes, my staff and I regularly hear from local small businesses about significant delays of one or more years before receiving approval from AFRL contracting in New Mexico. It is also my understanding that it often takes over a year to hire individuals and that 25% of AFRL billets in New Mexico remain vacant. In order to gain a better understanding of the challenges AFRL is facing, I respectfully request answers to the following questions:
- How much contracting in terms of dollars and number of contracts is happening at AFRL New Mexico through each of the various contracting instruments, including Small Business Innovation Research, Broad Agency Announcements, cooperative agreements, small business set-asides and others?
- What are the planned times for completion of each instrument? How does contracting at AFRL New Mexico actually perform against the intended time for completion for each instrument? How do the numbers for Air Force R&D contracting in New Mexico compare against other Department of Defense R&D contracting?
- What are the barriers to more efficient contracting at AFRL New Mexico?
- What resource, training, and staff shortfalls do your directorates have in New Mexico and how can we ensure they and their contractors thrive?
- What specifically is causing the delay in hiring of individuals at AFRL?
I believe answering these questions will help AFRL Directed Energy and Space Vehicles become even more effective in developing technology to ensure we remain the globally preeminent force in air, space and cyber. Also, if you have any proposed solutions to address these delays, particularly ones in which the Senate Armed Services Committee can be of assistance, I would welcome those suggestions. I appreciate your attention to this matter.