As a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator Kennedy has fought hard to keep Massachusetts a leader in the defense industry. Over his decades in office, he has secured billions of dollars for job-creating defense projects in Massachusetts that add to our national security. Those projects range from research for innovative medical technologies to care for our wounded warriors to mine resistant ambush protected (MRAP) vehicles and up-armored humvees that protect our service members from improvised explosive devices. His guiding vision over the years has been to secure funding for programs and projects that ensure that our soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen have the best equipment, training and resources possible.
As an example, some of the projects the Senator has supported include the Center for Integration of Medicine and Innovative Technology for the development of critical new medical devices, Advanced Lower Limb Prostheses for Battlefield Amputees, the Joint Strike Fighter Alternative Engine, the University of Massachusetts Nano-Manufacturing of Multifunctional Sensors, a Dedicated Breast MRI System at Walter Reed and the military construction project for the Distributed Common Ground System at Otis.
Senator Kennedy met Brian and Alma Hart at the burial of their son John in 2003 at Arlington National Cemetery. They told the Senator about John’s wish that they do something to improve the availability of armored humvees to the troops. Since that meeting, Senator Kennedy has been at the forefront of getting up-armored humvees for our troops. In spring of 2003, he offered amendments to the Defense Authorization bill to increase funding for armored humvees. In April 2005, Senator Kennedy and Senator Bayh offer an amendment to the FY 2005 Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Bill to add $213 million for additional armored vehicles. The amendment passed 60-40. Senator Kennedy has consistently supported funding for armored vehicles, including the Mine Resistant Armor Protected Vehicle, and for improved body armor for our troops.
As Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee’s Seapower Subcommittee, Senator Kennedy led the fight to continue building the Navy’s DDG-1000 Zumwalt destroyer. This ship will increase the Navy’s ability to defend against cruise missiles and ballistic missile threats. The ship represents a quantum leap in technology that keeps our Navy the world’s leader. He has also fought to keep the Littoral Combat ship program on schedule and on budget. This troubled program will provide the Navy with that future backbone of the fleet and its success is imperative to providing the Navy the number of ships it needs.
Remembering his mother’s status as a Gold Star Mother, Senator Kennedy has always been a strong supporter of our nation’s veterans and military families. He made contact with the family of every service member from Massachusetts killed in Iraq or Afghanistan.
In 2005, Senator Kennedy brought Massachusetts veterans and employment leaders together for a forum on veteran’s employment in the Commonwealth. This forum allowed veterans to obtain contacts for jobs throughout the Commonwealth and established a one-stop shopping guide for veterans in the state to find jobs. In 2007, he brought together the Massachusetts families of those killed in Iraq or Afghanistan for a viewing of a NECN documentary commemorating their service and afterward spent private time with these families offer his condolences and prayers while listening to their stories and sharing in their grief.
“Within one month after John’s death, I had several meetings with Sen. Kennedy and he started Senate hearings and he changed things for a lot of other soliders who might be dead today if it were not for him. You tell me: Is that being a liberal? I would do anything for Sen. Kennedy.”- Brian Hart (Boston Herald, His history, public and private, always entwined with our own. Mike Barnicle, 5/21/08).
"They made us feel like we were the only ones they were dealing with. They never asked me if I was a Democrat or a Republican. They never cared."- David Beanland, former Army surgeon whose wife was deployed to Iraq with just two months left in her military obligation. Kennedy stepped in and secured a reprieve. (Boston Globe, Legions he aided now praise Kennedy Ordinary people recall his extraordinary help. Jenna Russell, 5/23/08).
BRAC – Hanscom, Natick, and Otis
On September 26, 2001, Congress approved legislation authorizing a fifth round of military base closures. This legislation followed past efforts, and established a process, insulated from political pressures, for the President and Congress to eliminate excess military infrastructure and close military bases. This process, known as BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure), would make its decisions in 2005.
This legislation required the Secretary of Defense to establish criteria for the BRAC process and propose an initial list of bases to be closed based on that criteria. That list was reviewed by a bi-partisan commission appointed by the President and Congress, who made final determinations. At various steps along the way, the President or Congress could reject the list, ending the process.
Immediately after passage of the BRAC legislation, Senator Kennedy met with then-Governor Swift to begin discussions on how to best protect Massachusetts installations against closure. Senator Kennedy led a strategy that focused on Massachusetts expertise in science and technology as an asset for the military.
In 2003, Senator Kennedy and Governor Romney met to kick off Massachusetts BRAC efforts with other industry and academic leaders, which began a unique alliance in support of the bases. Senator Kennedy met with senior leadership in the Pentagon to highlight Massachusetts’ strength in science and technology. He secured the support of Senators Gregg and Sununu for a region-wide effort to save Hanscom. Senator Kennedy also joined their efforts to support the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.
In January 2004, Senator Kennedy, with Governor Romney, led Massachusetts efforts to influence Department of Defense criteria for evaluating high-tech missions under BRAC. That effort was successful in convincing the Pentagon to look at the area surrounding a base to consider high-technology collaboration that would enhance military mission. That year, Senator Kennedy and his colleagues from the Massachusetts and New Hampshire delegations met with senior leaders at the Pentagon, at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, and Fort Belvoir to impress upon them the value of Massachusetts bases.
The coalition put together unprecedented offers to fund expansion plans for both Hanscom and Natick, if either were to see additional missions. Ultimately, this effort was successful, and when the initial list was released in 2005, the Defense Department recommended a net gain of over 1,000 jobs at Hanscom, and also recommended keeping Natick open.
The coalition quickly turned its efforts to fighting the closure of Otis. Senator Kennedy, Governor Romney, and Congressman Delahunt met with the BRAC commissioners at Otis and in Washington to impress upon them the importance of Otis to the nation’s security. In addition, they pointed out the many errors the Pentagon had made in their analysis of Otis.
Senator Kennedy was the host of the New England BRAC hearing in Boston, which was one of the largest BRAC hearings, with some of the most controversial base closings. At that hearing, Senator Kennedy and his colleagues presented a strong defense of Otis, and the need to maintain a National Guard alert mission in Massachusetts.
In the end, the effort was partially successful. The BRAC commission did not close Otis, but instead realigned the base. It moved the F-15s to Barnes Air National Guard Base in the western part of the state. The commission also protected the manpower levels in the state, so that the Massachusetts National Guard could absorb new missions.
Since the final BRAC results were announced, Senator Kennedy has been working with his colleagues to secure new missions for Otis, and to ensure that the transition of the F-15s goes smoothly, without weakening national security.
Massachusetts 9-11 Fund
Senator Kennedy’s commitment to the Massachusetts families of the victims of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 was another example of his leadership. Soon after that fateful day, the Senator called together disaster relief and mental health organizations to plan a coordinated response to the attacks for the families of victims of the tragedy. His leadership provided immediate avenues for collaboration between disaster response agencies and ensured a timely and comprehensive response.
Kennedy made his Massachusetts staff fully available to assist with the
Department Of Mental Health’s FEMA-funded crisis counseling program. His staff
were in daily contact with DMH, as well as the Massachusetts Office for Victim
Assistance (MOVA), in order to facilitate referrals of families to counselors,
assist with entitlement and relief fund issues and help to coordinate with
other state and federal agencies. His office prepared services and referral
guides for families of victims, developed a comprehensive Web site, and
assisted DMH and MOVA in providing training to counselors.
“For many of the Massachusetts families directly affected by the tragedy of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Senator Kennedy was a messenger of hope through his compassion, sincerity, generosity, and strength. Soon after 9/11, he called most of the Massachusetts families, and spoke to us not only as our Senator, but as a family man who had experienced so much loss in his life – most of it sudden. He reached out to us to offer empathy and assistance.
Over the last 8 years, his commitment to us never waivered. Each anniversary we would receive a personal letter from him. He always mentioned our strength and perseverance and how it inspired him. And he always reminded us that if we needed anything, he and his staff were there to help. Through his compassionate nature, he inspired us to care and reach out to others, even through the darkest days.
I think he would be proud to know that thanks to his work in helping to make September 11 a National Day of Service and Remembrance, many of the families have followed his lead and are reaching out to make a difference in honor of our loved ones. The theme of this year’s anniversary is giving back, as so many of the families have done for the last 8 years. As we commemorate our loved ones on the 11th, we will take part in community service projects that are dear to us. Those include giving blood to the American Red Cross, sending packages with our MMHF friends to our deployed troops, volunteering for the Salvation Army, donating food to Homes for Our Troops, and building homes for Habitat for Humanity. We will not only remember our loved ones who died on 9/11, but we will hold a special place in our hearts for the Senator. He has left a lasting mark with each of us and inspired us to not abandon our grief, but reach beyond it for the good of others.
On a personal note, I am honored to have known Senator Kennedy, and I am humbled to be able to continue some of his work as a board member of an organization he wanted created – the Mass Military Heroes Fund. I hope we can do it justice without his leadership and guidance, but we will draw from what we learned from him.
Each time I saw the Senator I would reintroduce myself, and he would always greet me with a hug and assure me it wasn’t necessary to remind him who I was. He knew me by name, and he would always ask about the kids. I sent him a note in April to thank him for his kindness and to wish him well, and he responded with a beautiful note, saying my words lifted his spirits and my actions were an inspiration to him. I will always treasure the gift of having met him and Mrs. Kennedy. The Commonwealth has suffered a great loss. No one has made the impact that he has; no public servant has been so sincerely compassionate and thoughtful. We will miss him tremendously. I offer a hug of hope and empathy to Mrs. Kennedy and his entire family."
- Christie Coombs, Massachusetts 9-11 Fund, and Mass Military Hero’s Fund
Massachusetts Military Heroes
With the leadership of Senator Kennedy, the Massachusetts Military Heroes Fund was created as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to providing support, programs and services to the families of military service personnel from Massachusetts fallen in service to the United States in support of, Operations Enduring Freedom, Noble Eagle and Iraqi Freedom.
It currently supports approximately 150 local households – the wives, husbands, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, children and other relatives of the fallen -- with clinical case management, community building and our new emergency grants of financial support and an incredibly active family advisory committee.
This Fund was created under the guidance and inspiration of Senator Kennedy and some families of September 11th who believed that we needed to do for the Military Heroes Families what had been done for their families -- give them the support in anything they need.
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