Former Air Force Research Lab Mesa Site Becomes AZLABS Thanks to Quick Teamwork

  • Published
  • By Susan Wolbarst
  • Air Force Real Property Agency
Quick work and cooperation were cited at an October 6 ceremony announcing that the former Air Force Research Laboratory will begin a new chapter as the Arizona Laboratories for Security and Defense Research or AZLABS.

Located on the former Williams Air Force Base, the lab complex contains 6.5 acres and 10 buildings. It opened in 1969 and officially closed on Sept. 15, 2011, when staff, equipment and operations were relocated to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio. The Air Force Research Laboratory was the last functioning portion of Williams AFB, which closed in 1993.

For many years, it appeared that the facility would be involved in a federal-to-federal transfer. The deal fell through about a year and a half ago, opening the way for the City of Mesa to go after the lab complex. The clock was ticking because the lab had a top-secret security clearance. To keep that clearance, the City needed to sign a lease with the Air Force before the Air Force officially vacated the property.

At the ceremony, Mr. Phil Mook, Senior Representative of the Air Force Real Property Agency's Western Region, said the City of Mesa staff, "ran really fast and really hard" to navigate the thicket of Federal real property and environmental laws governing base reuse. "The Air Force Real Property Agency was a willing partner in this race, right up to the finish line, which was negotiating a lease that allowed the City of Mesa inside the lab even before the Air Force moved out. This maintained the crucial security clearance," Mook noted.

The lease allows the City of Mesa to lease the labs to companies doing aerospace and defense research requiring high-level security. "And very soon, the city will own the property, making it even easier for them to lease it," Mook said.

Mook said he's worked on more than a dozen base reuse projects and observed many more. "In my career, I've never seen a community exhibit such vision, cooperation, and efficient work as Mesa did here. I look forward to seeing great things happen at the Arizona Laboratories for Security and Defense Research. This is a wonderful opportunity for the community to optimize assets of the former Williams Air Force Base as a new setting for scientific research and discovery," he said.

AFRPA acquires, manages and disposes of Air Force-controlled real property worldwide. The agency's BRAC Program Management Division has managed the remediation and transfer of more than 77,500 acres of property at 41 former installations to local communities for economic development.
For more information on the Air Force's BRAC environmental cleanup program, please call 866-725-7617 or email