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Schumer Vows to Fight Tooth & Nail to Protect Rome Labs And DFAS

During a visit to Rome, NY, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer reaffirmed his strong commitment to preserving and increasing funding for Rome Labs. In addition, Schumer spoke to employees and officials about his commitment to grow Rome Labs and his effort to urge U.S. Air Force (USAF) leadership to find a new director as soon as possible. Finally, the Senator, a longtime ardent champion of jobs at the facility, offered an update on efforts to preserve nearby Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS), which is also located in Rome and employs approximately 900 New Yorkers.

“In an era of constant hacking, cyber-spying and cyber-terror, Rome Labs is at the vanguard of countering cyber threats. Clearly we must double down on our national investment in the work done here, and I will do all I can to achieve that goal,” said Schumer. “Rome Labs is also an economic engine for Central New York, employing over 1,000 talented intelligence and communications personnel dedicated to protecting the nation’s cyber defense Network. I will fight for adequate federal funding for Rome Labs and will push the Air Force to select a new director as soon as possible, one who can continue the excellence, innovation and spin-off economic activity now occurring here.”

Schumer explained that Rome Labs, the Information Directorate of the Air Force Research Laboratory, is a national leader in communications and cyber technology in the heart of the Mohawk Valley. Located in Oneida County, one of its primary focuses is gathering and processing cyber intelligence. Since 1997, it has been the USAF’s “Superlab” and is considered the nation’s premier research organization for Command, Control, Communications, Cyber and Intelligence (C4I) technologies. The lab focuses on developing information technology for air, space and ground systems, in addition to partnering with other federal agencies, universities and other state and local governments.

Rome Labs is a source of growth for the regional economy and a major source of employment. According to the USAF, it is estimated that Rome Labs generates over $290 million in total economic growth in Central New York, including over 2,400 direct and indirect jobs supported with a payroll of roughly $191 million. The lab generates more than $100 million in expenditures in the Central NY area and spawned more than $6.6 million in economic impact among visitors between 2010 and 2014 alone. Because of Rome Labs’ strong commitment to excellence in developing and enhancing this nation’s cyber security infrastructure, as well as its commitment to employing local residents with good-paying jobs, Schumer has long fought to ensure Rome Labs has what it needs to succeed and maintain its strong Central NY workforce.

For these reasons, Schumer said that in order for Rome Labs to continue its mission of protecting the nation’s cyber security network, federal funding for the lab must be protected and increased as federal resources will go directly to support the facility’s operations and personnel. Schumer was successful in securing $171 million in the 2015 Senate appropriations bill for Rome Labs, a net increase from 2014 of $6 million. Schumer also wrote to Senate Appropriators in support of the President’s 2016 budget request for Rome labs, which was $164 million. Schumer has vowed to fight for the highest possible funding amount to support Rome Labs and its operations.

In order to further ensure Rome Labs has the resources it needs, Schumer is also working with the USAF to find a new leader for the facility following the departure of the Rome Labs former director, Mr. George Duchak. In September, Schumer urged the USAF top military brass to select a new director for Rome Labs that will help ensure the facility can continue as a leading force against cyber threats and a driver of the Central NY economy. Under Duchak’s leadership, Rome Labs established itself as a leader in the military community in gathering cyber intelligence and in providing good-paying, high-tech jobs in Central NY. During his visit, Schumer pledged to help find and push for a new director that would continue Duchak’s work and ensure Rome Labs remains a cyber intelligence leader. Schumer said, given the immense responsibilities of Rome Labs, specifically in leading the USAF’s cybersecurity efforts, a new director needs to be selected soon to ensure a both smooth transition and one that will allow the facility to continue to expand upon its day-to-day operations.

Finally, in May of this year, Schumer urged the National Guard Bureau to select Rome Labs as the site of the New York-New Jersey Cyber Protection Team (CPT). The CPT would allow Rome Labs to use its extensive cyber intelligence and communications infrastructure to counter cyber-terrorism threats. The bid would allow Rome Labs, a national leader in communications and cyber technology in the heart of the Mohawk Valley, to serve as an elite training facility for the CPT unit For NY and NJ. In addition, Latham Armory, the Capital Region’s National Guard Base, would serve as the Unit’s Mission Command center.

Schumer was joined by Timothy J. Sakulich, Acting Director of AFRL-Information Directorate and Mary Carol Chruscicki, Executive Director of the CNY Defense Alliance.

“Not only has Rome Labs proven to be an asset to the Air Force and the Department of Defense as a whole, but it is a catalyst for CNY’s high tech ecosystem and economy. With Senator Schumer’s advocacy in Washington, we hope to build on the labs’ success,” said Mary Carol Chruscicki, Executive Director of the CNY Cyber Alliance. “Today’s visit affirms the Senator’s commitment to Rome Labs.”

During his visit, Schumer also said he would continue fighting to preserve nearby DFAS, which employs approximately 900 workers in Rome. In 2014, DFAS employees became concerned that their largest customer, the U.S. Army, would be restructuring and internalizing a large portion of DFAS’s functions. Schumer was able to secure additional protections in the 2015 National Defense Authorization Bill (NDAA) for for DFAS that required an independent review by the Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller) of any initiative proposed or pilot initiated in 2015 that would permanently transfer functions away from DFAS to anywhere else in the Department of Defense (DOD).

Furthermore, in meetings with the current Secretary of Defense Ash Carter and with the nominee to be the next Secretary of the Army, Mr. Eric Fanning, Schumer has reiterated his support for DFAS and urged both DOD officials to keep it open in the future. 

The Defense Finance and Accounting Service was created in 1991 to standardize and improve accounting and financial operations for DOD. They provide payroll services for DOD military and civilian personnel, retirees and other major contractors and vendors. DFAS operates as a separate and unique entity in DOD, to ensure transparency and accountability on behalf of DOD financing and accounting.