Former Secretary of Defense Ash Carter tours AFFOA job site (Left to right: Siena Construction’s Andrew Garnitz, Karl Halpin, Art Cardinal; and Carter).

CAMBRIDGE, MA – On Tuesday, former Secretary of Defense Ash Carter paid a visit to a Siena Construction project site that will be home to a cutting-edge textile institute. The Advanced Functional Fabrics of America (AFFOA) – a national non-profit institute partially funded with government support – was formed to research and develop highly functional fabrics systems. Siena’s construction team is currently on site constructing AFFOA’s prototyping facility, which is slated to open in the second half of 2017.

Secretary Carter – a physicist and former member of President Barack Obama’s Cabinet from 2015-17 – was joined by his former senior military assistant General Paul Kern as well as AFFOA’s CEO Dr. Yoel Fink. The visitors – clad in white Siena Construction hardhats – were given a brief tour of the site by the Siena team, and also surveyed a rendering of the future prototyping area. The facility will feature a computer-aided design integration system, fiber and yarn devices, and textile assemblies systems.

Dr. Fink gave an overview of the institute’s mission to the team. AFFOA will “enable a manufacturing-based revolution by transforming traditional fibers, yarns, and fabrics into highly sophisticated, integrated and networked devices and systems”. These smart textiles can be used for a variety of purposes, from consumer apparel to defense purposes, such as functional fabrics that will lighten soldiers’ gear and enhance situational awareness in active environments.

During his visit, Carter stressed that the facility will be undertaking important research that will support America’s military. He thanked the Siena team for their construction efforts. Later in the day, it was announced that Carter will be joining Harvard University’s Kennedy School as the Belfer Professor of Technology and Global Affairs and Director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.

Siena’s Senior Project Manager Art Cardinal reflected on Siena’s involvement and the project’s current status.

“When a former presidential cabinet member visits your job site, you know you’re doing important and impactful work,” Cardinal said. “I speak for the entire Siena team when I say that we’re proud to be collaborating with AFFOA. Our project team is focused on delivering an important and complex space with considerations to the overall project budget. We hope AFFOA enjoys their new space.”

Siena Construction is a Cambridge-based construction management firm founded in 1991. For more information, visit