Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks learns about some of the projects in the works at Selfridge Dec. 13. She is joined by U.S. Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters.

Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks learns about some of the projects in the works at Selfridge Dec. 13. She is joined by U.S. Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Deputy Secretary of Defense observes Selfridge operations

By: Alex Szwarc | Mount Clemens - Clinton - Harrison Journal | Published December 21, 2021


HARRISON TOWNSHIP — On Dec. 13, Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks spent time at Selfridge Air National Guard Base in Harrison Township. The visit was described as one of importance for key leadership from the Department of Defense to know what is at the base.

U.S. Sens. Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow hosted Hicks.

The three officials observed the current operational capabilities of the base, reviewed key research and development initiatives taking place through the Kelly Johnson All-Domain Innovation Center, and discussed how Michigan’s military facilities are critical to our nation’s defense. 

In a brief presentation at the Innovation Center, Col. Chris McDonald said when he was tasked with setting up the center about two years ago, the focus was on rapid innovation.  

McDonald is the director of the Innovation Center and is based in Washington, D.C.

“The other focus was on the national all-domain warfighter innovation center,” he said.

In speaking with the media after Hicks departed, Peters said Hicks’ visit was part of a commitment she made to him during her confirmation hearing. 

“She was incredibly impressed by what she saw, the resources that are here, the capabilities to host most of the KC-135 and A-10s, and the multi-missions that go on at this facility from the Department of Homeland Security, as well,” Peters said.

The senator commented that Selfridge positions itself very well for future Air Force missions. He added that Selfridge needs to have the next generation of fighter planes.

Stabenow said Hicks clearly understands that what Selfridge offers is a unique partnership between the public and private sector.

“Selfridge has the capacity to do so many different missions,” she said.

In response to what Hicks’ visit accomplishes for Selfridge, Stabenow said it puts it at a better spot in understanding how important Selfridge is for the country for national security and how critical it is for Michigan.

“This is a pivotal time for decisions in terms of the future of warfare and national defense,” Peters said. “We need to understand that potential adversaries like China and Russia are ones we have to be focused on. The Department of Defense is doing a deep dive into thinking of how we prepare for those challenges. For the deputy secretary to see that Selfridge is uniquely positioned to help that transition puts us in a great spot for future investments made in our national defense.”   

U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Paul D. Rogers, adjutant general and director of the Michigan Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, said success in the military is all about teamwork.

“It takes teamwork to survive on complex battlefields around the world,” he said. “Advocacy for Michigan is also teamwork. That’s what today was a demonstration of.”

McDonald said one project at the center is a mockup of a commercial satellite for synthetic aperture radar.

“It’s not just for commercial use; the date is moved to military members, as well,” he said. “The fact that it is synthetic aperture radar really gives you a lot of depth in an image that you don’t get with full-motion video or electro optical.”

Another project at the center he highlighted was an electronic vertical takeoff and land aircraft.

McDonald said Selfridge took the lead on Innovation Centers on military bases. 

“This is the second innovation center in the entire Air National Guard. What’s unique about this is we were asked to have Army and Air National Guard, so our focus is joint service innovation,” he said.  

The Senate is currently considering the annual national defense bill, which includes nearly $144 million in investments for military facilities across Michigan, including $28 million in funding for a new A-10 hangar and maintenance facility at Selfridge.