HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — One of the world’s largest defense contractors is expanding its operations in Huntsville. Elected officials from the local, state and federal levels came in what was a demonstration of commitment to the project and Lockheed Martin's commitment to the Tennessee Valley.
Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-AL), Governor Kay Ivey (R-AL), and Mayors Tommy Battle and Paul Finley of Huntsville and Madison, respectively, were among the elected officials who joined with Lockheed representatives for a groundbreaking ceremony.
The new, $16.5 million facility will host Lockheed's "Next Generation Interceptor Program" (NGI), an effort to combat intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).
"This building and the Next Generation Interceptor program itself represent the future," said Sarah Hiza, Vice President & General Manager for Lockheed Martin Space. "Not only the future of our team here, with an anticipated 200 employees joining Lockheed Martin in North Alabama this year, but the future of missile defense and 21st-century security for our nation."
According to Lockheed Martin's website, the NGI program is geared towards the threat of ICBMs from "rogue nations" Iran and North Korea.
Senator Tuberville endorsed the program and new facilities during a short speech in front of the crowd of close to 70 people.
"This nation needs robust missile defense capabilities and far more than just 21 Next Generation Interceptors," he said. "I want to thank Lockheed for what they're doing, what they're doing all over the state."
Specifically, though, Tuberville singled out China as a threat.
"China ... is not a 'near peer competitor' anymore; They are a competitor. And they are building fast," he said. "Their weapons grow more sophisticated by the day.
"China spends his resources on deadliness, we need to do the same thing," he said.
Later, meeting with media members in a small scrum, he rationalized his hawkish position over a potential conflict.
"It’s things like this today that make sure that China understands that we’re here to protect the United States, protect our allies and this interceptor that we're looking at here is, it's not an offensive weapon, it's a defensive weapon," he said. "We've got to prepare to defend this country, if all heck breaks loose - which it possibly could - hopefully it doesn't, but we're closer to war with China right now than we've ever been.”