Domenici Helps Secure Funding for Tech Research, Oct. 10, 2002

Contact: Chris Gallegos
(202) 224-7082


WASHINGTON, D.C., Oct. 10, 2002 -- U.S. Senator Pete Domenici today touted the approval of a national defense spending bill that includes a variety of funding he sought for Defense Department work in New Mexico, including $21 million for the development of the Magdalena Ridge Observatory and $7.1 million for a microelectronics testing program at New Mexico Tech in Socorro.

As a member of the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, Domenici helped to reconcile the differences in the House and Senate versions of the FY2003 Defense Appropriations Bill. The $355 billion spending bill now requires final approval from the House and Senate before it can be sent to the President to be signed into law.

"I'm pleased we are finally moving this important funding bill. The fact that we've directed more funding to work in Socorro County only underscores the growing participation of New Mexico Tech research and testing in projects to improve our national security," Domenici said. "With our national security a top priority right now, I am hopeful that the House and Senate will give this bill final approval quickly so that it can become law."

The final bill includes a 4.1 percent across-the-board pay increase for military personnel. It also provides $14.8 billion for Defense Health Care, $263 million above the President's request.

Domenici and Representative Joe Skeen worked to provide $21 million for the continued development of the Magdalena Ridge Observatory in Socorro County. New Mexico Tech is the lead university in a consortium, that includes the Naval Research Laboratory and the Air Force Research Laboratory, to construct and operate the observatory.

"I'm very pleased with the final level we agreed on for the Magdalena observatory, considering the House started at $30 million and the Senate offered none," Domenici said. "This facility will have so many good uses, not only to the Defense Department, but also for science education in New Mexico."

Domenici and Skeen in August traveled to South Baldy in the Magdalena Mountains for an event to unveil a model of the planned $45 million facility, which will be an astronomical research facility using an array of optical and infrared telescopes to produce extremely detailed images of the far reaches of the universe. The observatory is expected to begin operations in 2007.

Domenici was also instrumental in protecting $7.1 million to support the MicroElectronics Testing, Technology & Obsolescence Program (METTOP) program at New Mexico Tech. The funding is provided within the Defense Micro-Electronics Activity account to establish METTOP within Tech's Energetic Materials Research and Testing Center (EMRTC). The METTOP funding will allow New Mexico Tech to expand its RDT&E capabilities to exercise virtually any microelectronic component used in military, space, and commercial applications.

The specific purposes of the METTOP include the verification of complex software models, the determination and documentation of large variations in microelectronic device responses to various environments, and the tracking and documentation of changes in the manufacturing processes of various microelectronic devices used in military, space, and commercial programs.

Elsewhere in the bill for programs funded at WSMR, Domenici gained $2.1 million to begin making critical infrastructure improvements needed to support the High Energy Laser Systems Test Facility (HELSTF), including restoring the on-site firefighting team requirement. This funding is in addition to the $14.4 million requested by the President to support HELSTF operations in FY2003. In addition, the bill has $11.2 million in Advanced Weapons Technology funding to support Solid State Laser development at HELSTF.

Domenici secured $15 million for the Mobile Tactical High Energy Laser (MTHEL), which is a continuation of the combined U.S./Israel THEL program initiated in 1996 to evaluate the effectiveness of THELs to negate the threat posed to population areas by short range Katyusha rockets.