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MIT seeks government backing to build new Lincoln Lab facility

The Institute would arrange for a loan that would be repaid through the Lincoln Lab’s government contract.
An aerial view of MIT's Lincoln Laboratory.
An aerial view of MIT's Lincoln Laboratory.

MIT is awaiting congressional approval to build a significant new research facility at Hanscom Air Force Base in Bedford, Mass. The venture, to be run by MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory, would reinforce the high-tech mission of the base, which is to apply advanced technology to problems of national security.

The Institute would arrange for a loan to finance the project — a loan that would be repaid over time through Lincoln Lab’s government contract without affecting the rest of MIT’s operations.

The proposed facility would design electronics for new aerospace, communications and missile defense technologies. The plan would enhance Hanscom’s value, officials say, at a time when the facility, some 15 miles northwest of Boston, could fall victim to a new round of military base closures.

The proposal would replace obsolete Lincoln Lab facilities dating to the 1950s and 1960s, constructing a new 250,000- to 300,000-square-foot research lab. Some of the 3,200 MIT employees who now work at Lincoln Lab would use the new facilities.

Established in 1941, Hanscom has become the site of key military research on electronics and radar. The Department of Defense established Lincoln Lab in 1951, authorizing MIT to manage it as a federally funded research and development center. Lincoln Lab, which specializes in air defense, communications technologies, lasers and advanced electronics, constructed its first facilities at Hanscom in 1952.

The proposed project is similar to one MIT undertook in 1988, when it financed a Lincoln Lab facility at Hanscom under a 40-year lease with the government. That facility will be paid off in 2014 through the Lincoln Lab contract.

The plan has been approved by the Department of Defense; Congress must pass legislation that authorizes the project before the Air Force can lease land at Hanscom to MIT for the project.

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