Celebrating new UK lab, McConnell calls for building up US industrial base, defense spending

Republished from Kentucky Lantern


LEXINGTON — U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell spoke about the need to “improve the country’s industrial base” during a ribbon-cutting at the University of Kentucky for a new research laboratory that will work with the U.S. Army. 

McConnell, who graduated from the university’s law school in 1967, spoke on Wednesday about his support for increasing defense spending as Ukraine continues to defend itself from an invasion launched in February 2022 by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In recent visits to his home state, the longtime Kentucky senator has emphasized his view that the U.S. should continue to aid Ukraine against Russia, an ally of China, and did so again Wednesday. 

He called the present “a very, very dangerous period” as Russia and China work together against democratic nations. 

“What we need to do is to rebuild our industrial base,” McConnell said, calling the laboratory an example of that. “We sort of took a holiday from history for a while, and our allies in Europe did as well, but we’re awake now.” 

McConnell congratulated the university on the Next Generation Additive Manufacturing Research Laboratory, which is part of UK’s Institute for Sustainable Manufacturing. Researchers in the lab will work to develop products and components for the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) and civilian use. 

Under a five-year, $50 million collaboration between UK, the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Army Research Laboratory, UK’s project will receive about $24.5 million from the DOD. 

S. Jawahir, the director of the institute as well as UK’s principal investigator and project director, said the new space for the lab will allow the university to educate both undergraduate and graduate students for the manufacturing workforce regionally, nationally and internationally. 

UK President Eli Capilouto said in a statement that the university is “deeply thankful for members of our Congress who continue their steadfast support, which ensures we advance Kentucky and fulfill our promise.” 

“As an institution driven by discovery and innovation, we are dedicated to advancing our community and the world,” Capilouto said. “Through this partnership, we can harness our top talents to turn groundbreaking research into real-world solutions — achieving far more collectively than we ever could alone. As Kentucky’s institution, we are stronger and more effective when we collaborate in meaningful ways.” 

After the ribbon-cutting ceremony, McConnell did not take questions from the media. 

On Tuesday, McConnell was in Ashland to visit Pathways Journey House, a residential transitional facility for women, as well as speak to the Northeast Kentucky Chamber of Commerce. 

Earlier this year, McConnell announced he planned to step down as Republican leader of the Senate in November. He plans to serve the remainder of his term, which ends in January 2027.

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