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Rep. Yvette Herrell, R-N.M., spent part of the day Friday on the northern reaches of her congressional district.
Though located in Albuquerque, Herrell said the southern parts of Kirtland Air Force Base are in the state’s 2nd Congressional District – Herrell’s southern New Mexico-based House seat. She toured the base Friday and received briefings from three colonels about the various missions based there.
“When you get a chance to see the 30,000-foot view of all the different missions … it’s pretty remarkable,” Herrell said. “There’s a huge military presence in New Mexico, and I think it’s important as a member of Congress to understand all the missions, not just Holloman (Air Force Base in Alamogordo) missions, to be a good voice and good advocate for our military installations in Washington.”
Col. David Miller, the 377th Air Base Wing and installation commander; Col. Michael Curry, the commander of the 58th Special Operations Wing, and Col. Eric Felt, the commander of the Phillips Research Site and director of the Air Force Research Laboratory Space Vehicles Directorate, each gave Herrell an overview of the work under their command at Kirtland.
The first-term congresswoman asked the military officials what they were doing to protect critical American infrastructure, like satellites, from possible cyber attacks. She cited the recent hacks that affected Colonial Pipeline and meat supply networks.
“It’s an awakening now, two big hacks back to back … it brings that awareness to everyone,” she said. “I think we should be having more conversations … about how we can use dollars from the (Department of Defense) budget to protect these assets.
“It needs to be a priority.”
Felt said the AFRL research happening at KAFB includes working to protect American satellites in space from cyber attacks. Some of that work is being done at the recently opened Space Warfighting Operations Research & Development Laboratory.
Felt also talked about several other recent missions and experiments being done at Kirtland that aim to protect American assets from attack. One project in development is a directed energy weapon that will be used to protect military bases from drones by using high-powered microwaves.
“We’ve become very dependent on our space capabilities,” Felt said. “So now we have to protect and defend those capabilities.”