12.19.09

Vermont Firms' R&D Projects Clear Congress In Defense Budget Bill

. . . Leahy Provisions Tally $43 M. For Vermont Jobs

WASHINGTON (Saturday, Dec. 19) – Congress finalized the last portion of the federal budget on Saturday morning, passing and sending to the President's desk a defense appropriations bill that will secure jobs in a dozen Vermont research and development projects, under provisions included in the bill by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.).

Throughout the last year, Leahy -- a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee -- worked to identify opportunities for Vermont companies to develop products needed by the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines, such as the $1.2 million that Leahy secured for Safe Life Corporation in Williston to research new wound dressings.  Also included is a $10 million increase Leahy secured for the Trusted Foundry program whose primary facility is at IBM Essex, ensuring a domestic source of the latest generation of microchips for the Defense Department and other national security agencies.  

"Vermont firms' expertise, skills and employees are a ready match for products needed to protect and equip our troops," said Leahy, a senior member of the Appropriations Committee and of its Defense Subcommittee, which drafted the bill.  "Part of my job is to be the matchmaker, and Vermont's cutting-edge technology sector is ready, willing and able to produce these products and to do it well.  This also often leads to new opportunities for these Vermont firms in the commercial market."

Other projects that Leahy secured in the newly passed bill include funding for: Applied Research Associates in Randolph, to develop an advanced remote-controlled vehicle that can safely detect and remove landmines and other unexploded ordnance; Plasan in Bennington, to develop a new egress for the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) All-Terrain Vehicle so soldiers can escape easier from the vehicle in an emergency; and Microstrain in Williston, to develop wireless sensors that monitor airframe and rotor fatigue in Navy airframes.

Another provision in the bill relating to Plasan's work in Bennington is the Leahy-backed addition of $825 million above the Administration's request to further protect U.S. troops in Afghanistan by completing the purchase of 6,600 MRAP vehicles.

Leahy -- also the longtime co-chair of the Senate National Guard Caucus with fellow co-chair Senator Kit Bond (R-Mo.) -- led the caucus's successful effort to include $700 million in the bill for equipment dedicated to the National Guard and Reserves.  Senator Bernie Sanders is also a member of the Senate National Guard Caucus.

The House of Representatives passed the bill on Wednesday and the Senate approved it on Saturday.  The bill now goes to the President, who is expected to sign it.

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