Press Release

Schumer, Gillibrand, Hanna, Owens Call on Air Force to Prevent Steep Funding Cuts and Leadership Void at Vital Air Force Research Lab in Rome

Feb 14, 2012

U.S. Representatives Richard Hanna and Bill Owens today urged the Air Force Materiel Command to support sustained funding for the Air Force Research Lab in Rome (AFRL Rome), and to expedite the hiring of a new lab director. In a letter to General Donald J. Hoffman, the bipartisan Congressional Delegation highlighted AFRL Rome’s important role in current U.S. cyber defense initiatives, and requested that the lab share details on the hiring process of a new director to ensure that its cyber and information mission remains unimpaired.

“Investing in Rome Labs strengthens our national defense as well as the Mohawk Valley economy,” said Senator Schumer. Slashing that investment could put the brakes on state-of-the-art research that keeps us a step ahead of our enemies, and keeps hundreds of Central New Yorkers in good high-tech jobs. We’re going to work hard to ensure that Rome Labs has the resources it needs to continue its pioneering work.” 

“The Rome Lab is a critical resource for our national defense strategy,” said Senator Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “It is imperative that the lab remain fully funded and well-managed so that it can continue to conduct vital research to keep this country safe from cyber attacks.”

“I’m concerned about proposed cuts to the Air Force’s overall research, development, test, and evaluation program funding levels,” Rep. Hanna said.  “The administration can’t say one thing and do another when it comes to prioritizing our defense needs in the cyber era.  Rome Lab provides critical defense research and I will continue to advocate for it to be fully funded under the direction of a strong leader to advance its 21st century technology programs.”

“Rome Lab plays a significant role in the nation’s security and New York’s economic development,” Rep. Owens said.  “The Department of Defense has identified cybersecurity as a top priority in the years to come, knowing full well that a major cyber attack on the United States could have a crippling effect on America’s infrastructure and economic strength. Rome Lab has the critical knowledge and expertise to help keep America’s technological edge in the world, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to see this funding restored.”

Despite cyber funding increases in some sectors of the Department of Defense (DOD), the President’s FY2013 budget request calls for an 18 percent cut – amounting to over $30 million – to key programs at AFRL Rome. The request is part of a proposed $1 billion cut to the Air Force’s total funding for research, development, test and evaluation programs.

AFRL Rome’s current lab director, Dr. Davy Belk, announced three weeks ago that he will transfer to Edwards Air Force base on April 22. No plans for a replacement director have been announced. The Senators and Representatives request that the lab provide a timetable and detail their search qualifications to ensure candidates are highly qualified and have relevant experience in cyber and information technology.

Full text of letter from the Congressional Delegation is below:

General Donald J. Hoffman

Air Force Materiel Command,

Office of the Commander,

Wright-Patterson AFB, OH, 45433. 

Dear General Hoffman: 

We write in support of the Air Force Research Lab in Rome, NY (AFRL Rome).  The Secretary of Defense has stated, “the next Pearl Harbor that we confront could very well be a cyber attack that cripples our power systems, our grid, our security systems, our financial systems, our governmental systems.” In part to confront this national security challenge, we were pleased that cyber-security was made a priority in the Defense Priorities and Choices strategic guidance. Yet the incredible resource the nation has in AFRL Rome is not being supported to the level it should due to a proposed cut in Fiscal Year 2013. This proposed diminution of resources – which we oppose –  is exacerbated by the loss of the Lab’s director, Dr. Belk, who recently announced his move to Edwards Air Force Base, effective April 22, 2012. 

First, we are troubled that the proposed FY2013 budget request for the Department of Defense does not provide Rome Lab with the full support that it deserves as a vital component of our nation’s 21st century defense initiatives.  Our understanding is that today’s budget request presents a call for an 18% cut to Rome Lab’s key program elements, something we strenuously oppose and will work to prevent.  This cut of over $30 million in funding is part of the budget’s proposed request to cut more than $1 billion in the Air Force’s total funding levels for research, development, test, and evaluation programs.  These cuts are particularly surprising given the increases in cyber funding in other parts of the Department. 

We are further concerned that if the AFRL Rome Director position remains vacant or filled by only an interim director for any significant period of time, it would impair the lab’s cyber and information mission.  Although the announcement was released over three weeks ago, we have not yet seen an adequate plan with respect to finding Dr. Belk’s replacement. Therefore, we request that you provide us with a timeline for filling the position.  Further, we believe it is imperative that this position be filled with an appropriately high-level and experienced candidate, preferably with a cyber and information laboratory research background, who will be located full-time at AFRL Rome. 

We believe these issues are of particular importance to New York and our nation’s security, and it is our aim that solutions to the funding issue and the vacancy situation are provided in a reasonable timeframe. Thank you for your attention to these important requests and we look forward to your response.