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Heinrich Announces $25 Million For Military Technology Manufacturing In New Mexico

Rep. Martin Heinrich (D-NM)
Rep. Martin Heinrich (D-NM)

Commentary: Today, U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), a member of the Senate Armed Service Committee, announced $25 million in federal funding for an Albuquerque company, Aquila, to boost military technology manufacturing in New Mexico. The funding, which was made available by the U.S. Army, will allow Aquila to produce 2,860 radiation kit readers and 282,000 dosimeters for the Army National Guard. These dosimeters are wrist-worn devices servicemembers use to measure ionizing radiation in order to detect exposure. Senator Heinrich led the effort to secure this federal investment, which will protect the health and safety of our uniformed military and help support and maintain local jobs in New Mexico.

The Army has a shortfall of radiation reader kits, and the dosimeter technology that American servicemembers currently rely on use outdated 1960s Cold War era technology. These new dosimeters made by Aquila will relay information quickly and precisely in our military's modern network centric battlefield in order to keep them safe.  Aquila will work with its New Mexico small business partners Delta Group Electronics, RMB Distributors, Toltec, and Phoenix West to produce the dosimeters. Aquila will begin its delivery of radiation kits this year with full delivery to be completed in 2017.

"I'm proud to advocate on behalf of this homegrown New Mexico company and help it make major contributions to protect American soldiers," said Sen. Heinrich. "This investment in modern radiation detection devices will ensure members of our military are using the best available technology when they risk their lives on the battlefield and will also help preserve high paying advanced manufacturing jobs here in New Mexico. I will continue to work on the Senate Armed Services Committee to ensure our men and women in uniform have the necessary and up-to-date equipment to keep them safe as they work at home and abroad to keep all of us safe."

"We'd like to thank Senator Heinrich and his staff for their efforts in facilitating the delivery of our state-of-the-art RadWatch dosimetry system to the U.S. Army National Guard service members," said Aquila President Judy Beckes Talcott. "At the same time, we are encouraged that this order strengthens the industrial base of Aquila and our partners in New Mexico."

Senator Heinrich made the announcement at Aquila's manufacturing facility in Albuquerque and was joined by Aquila's President, Executive Vice President, engineers, and staff, as well as Lt. Col. John Scott, who was representing the National Guard.

Aquila is an employee-owned small business that focuses on advanced communications, network design and implementation, project management, information security, prototype design, and manufacturing. The company employs 45 workers and several summer interns from the University of New Mexico (UNM) and local high schools, and partners with private industry and national laboratories in New Mexico.

Over the last year, Senator Heinrich worked to address the shortfall of radiation reader kits and dosimeters. In September 2015, Senator Heinrich worked with the Ranking Member on the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee to request timely investment in new production of dosimeters. Senator Heinrich also wrote a letter with U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.) to Secretary of the Army John McHugh and National Guard Bureau Chief General Frank Grass urging new supplies of dosimeters for Army National Guard troops.

Last month, Senator Heinrich expressed his concerns on this issue during a Senate Armed Services Subcommittee hearing in which he advocated for increased production of upgraded dosimeters to combat against troop radiation exposure. During the hearing, Senator Heinrich stressed that the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency recently warned the world community about the increased dangers of a potential nuclear incident as new vulnerabilities of theft or misuse of nuclear materials around the world have been identified. He underscored that such incident at home or abroad could put our service members at dangerous risk of radiation exposure.