The Rochester-based American Center for Optics Manufacturing Inc. (AmeriCOM) has been selected for a five-year $34 million grant from the Department of Defense’s Office of Industrial Policy program to launch a nationwide public-private Defense Precision Optics Consortium partnership between the U.S. government, industry and academia.
Also known as the Defense Precision Optics Workforce Development and Technology Ecosystem Project, the partnership is designed to boost the domestic precision optics industry by identifying gaps in the precision optics defense industrial base and undertaking new R&D to solve the industry’s technical challenges, thereby securing the supply chain.
Some $11.5 million was secured in the Fiscal Year 2020 and 2021 omnibus appropriations legislation for the DoD to start the pilot program.
“Rochester is a proven leader in the precision optics industry, and the AmeriCOM partnership with the DoD means that in addition to securing the domestic supply chain, the region will play a direct hand in preparing Upstate New Yorkers for good-paying, in-demand jobs that are vital to our national security,” Sen. Charles Schumer said in a statement. “The funding announced today will boost the domestic precision optics industry and revolutionize optics tech and manufacturing, as well as the Finger Lakes workforce. It’s the first step to ensuring that all of New York and the entire nation has the workforce it needs to attract, build and sustain a strong precision optics industry.”
As part of the partnership and as precision optics manufacturers experience a critical workforce shortage, AmeriCOM plans to create a nationwide network to attract and train specialists for the industry, particularly skilled optics technicians.
“The precision optical systems that our Armed Forces depend upon in the air, on the water and on the ground also permeate the average citizen’s daily lives in their cars, on their phones, in public safety and in consumer products,” AmeriCOM Vice President Tom Battley said. “One cannot overstate the importance of maintaining a strong competitive posture in this industry. That includes new manufacturing technologies as well as the highly skilled technicians to implement them. That’s the AmeriCOM mission.”
The funding announced Tuesday was awarded from the DoD’s Industrial Base Analysis and Sustainment Program. Schumer, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Congressman Joe Morelle previously worked to secure $7.5 million in funding into the DoD’s FY2020 budget and $4 million in its FY2021 budget to create the DoD’s precision optics manufacturing pilot program in order to address the precision optics industry’s supply chain and workforce development issues.