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In the spirit of continuing to improve resources at home to better serve those deployed abroad, Navy and government leaders gathered at Naval Support Facility Indian Head on Tuesday morning for the inauguration of a new research facility on base.

The new facility, the Advanced Energetics Research Laboratory Complex, supports Naval Surface Warfare Center Indian Head Division by providing a substantial upgrade from the current facility, which was constructed in 1945.

The new facility features 11 laboratories, is spread over 13,000 square feet and cost around $9.5 million to construct, according to a previous report in the Independent.

Its age notwithstanding, several speakers remarked on the old building’s tendency to shake whenever a truck passed by, causing research to be disrupted, and generally insufficient facilities for the many scientists who staff NSWC IHD’s Research, Development, Testing and Evaluation Department. The men and women of the division test improvised explosive devices often found in Middle Eastern war theaters, understanding the sensitivity of different explosives and deactivating agents used in biological warfare.

Capt. Peter Nette, the commander for Naval Support Activity South Potomac, which supervises the Indian Head and Dahlgren, Va., bases, said the new facility is especially relevant to preserving the base in the current economic climate.

“It’s an important investment,” Nette said. “The new research facility will sustain and further enhance the command’s role.”

Capt. Andrew Buduo, commander of NSWC IHD, noted that “while it [the old research facility] has served our country well, its time has passed.”

Gerry Pangilinan, head of the Research & Technology Division, who first joined the staff of NSWC IHD 12 years ago, has worked in the building since he arrived and was able to observe the building’s less-than-ideal work environment every day.

“Having the ability to do uninterrupted work that this facility will provide is key,” Pangilinan said. “This is the home of some of the best scientists in the DOD, and our warfighters abroad deserve no less than the best.”

House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md., 5th) also was present at the event.

“Investing in a new facility such as this wouldn’t be worth a dime if not for the men and women inside,” Hoyer said. “Investing in bricks and mortar is easy, but none of this could happen without the people who staff this facility.”

Hoyer also spoke to the necessity of the new research facility for keeping Indian Head relevant.

“It might not be the prettiest base, but some of the best work is done here,” Hoyer said. “These new facilities are necessary to attract new people. If these students just finishing up their education ... don’t come here, they’ll just go somewhere else. We need these buildings. What Indian Head does is a critical function for national security.”

Charles County Commissioner Ken Robinson (D) said that consistent improvements to base facilities are necessary for its future.

“It’s very exciting that the base continues to expand its scope as it relates to technology,” Robinson said. “As rounds of [Base Realignment and Closure Commission activity] come and go, this helps make the case for Indian Head.”

Building 3146, for which the ribbon cutting was conducted, only represents one portion of improvements to the RDT&E Department. Phase II of the research lab is expected to gain funding for fiscal 2015.

lrenner@somdnews.com