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Senate Passes Defense Appropriations Act With Alaska Projects, Priorities

Paychecks for Troops, ATG Benefits, Missile Defense, Military Projects included

Despite repeated attempts by Republicans to delay the legislation, including stall tactics requiring Senate Democrats to reconvene the Senate after Midnight Friday in the early morning hours when the Continuing Resolution temporarily funding the Department of Defense would expire, the U.S. Senate on Dec. 19 passed the Fiscal Year 2010 Department of Defense Appropriations Bill. The bill contains resources and support for Alaska's military personnel and facilities, as well as ongoing military operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and around the globe.

Preceded by the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010, the Appropriations Bill provides funding for national defense departments and efforts.

As a member of the Armed Services Committee, U.S. Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK) proposed and supported several initiatives alongside the Alaska Delegation and praised the passage today.  The legislation approves a total of $636.3 billion. These funds provide increased benefits for soldiers and their families and ensure the continuation of strong national defense policies.

Among the key items are restoration of retirement pensions for members of the Alaska Territorial Guard, a 3.4 percent pay increase for all service members, and millions of dollars in military construction and support.

"The passage of this legislation has great meaning to Alaska's service men and women, their families and our military bases where they serve," Begich said. "In a time of war, with thousands of Alaska-based soldiers bravely serving overseas, providing proper funding is a top priority. This legislation proudly represents a commitment to our service members and I look forward to the President signing the bill and fulfilling the pledge of the Congress."

Final passage of the Act authorizes several key elements for Alaska and Alaskans including:

·         A 3.4 percent across the board pay raise, 0.5 percent above the budget request and the annual increase in the Employment Cost index, ensuring Alaska's military service members pay continues to move closer to comparable civilian pay rates.

·         Sen. Begich, with Sen. Lisa Murkowski, successfully restored retirement benefits to former members of the Alaska Territorial Guard (ATG). Passage of the Defense Appropriations Act will provide funding for ATG benefits previously authorized in the Defense Authorization Act.

·         A requirement that the Secretary of Defense submit a report on how Native American and Alaska Native corporations will be impacted by changes to Defense Department compensation procedures. The intent of such a report will include recommendations on how the subject provision (Section 811 of the National Defense Authorization Act 2010) can be amended to mitigate any unintended negative consequences.

·         Delays a scheduled reduction in Medicare and TRICARE reimbursement rates through Feb. 28, 2010. Sen. Begich has supported a permanent elimination of this reduction in S.1776 and pending health care reform legislation.

Military Procurement - Equipping our Armed Forces:

·         $2.5 billion for procurement of 10 C-17 cargo planes. Elmendorf Air Force Base currently hosts C-17s.

·         $23.36 billion to provide equipment for deployed personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan.

·         $319 million for eight Joint Cargo Aircraft.

·         Funds are provided for procurement of 30 Joint Strike Fighter Aircraft.

·         Funds are provided for continued development of the alternate engine for the F-35 Fighter Jet.

Missile Defense - Addressing National Security:

·         $50 million in increased funding was provided for sustainment of the Ground-Based Interceptor vendor base facilitating continued production, sustainment, and operation of this system in Alaska to provide for increased capabilities.

·         Promotes continued development of two-stage ground based interceptor by requiring a report from the Missile Defense Agency on how testing and development will be leveraged to modernize equipment deployed at Fort Greely.

Alaska Defense Projects Authorized in the Act:

·         $12,680,000 - Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex Enhancements, for construction of combat training ranges.

·         $6,900,000 - Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex Enhancements, for base support.

·         $2,400,000 - Statewide - For law enforcement agencies to address illegal drug trafficking in Alaska.

·         $2,400,000 - Homer - Under-Vehicle Inspection System, for production of identified system.

·         $1,600,000 - Fairbanks - Future Tactical Truck Carbon Composite Shelter and Retrofit of Current Vehicle Shelters, for sheltering military ground vehicles and improving existing shelters.

·         $1,560,000 - Alaska Joint Command - Command & Control Infrastructure and Physical Security, for improving access control systems and communications capabilities.

·         $1,400,000 - Palmer - Flight/Hangar Deck Cleaner, for mobile cleaning reclaim recycle systems to maintain and clean aircraft carriers.

·         $1,300,000 - Eielson Air Force Base - Facility renovation and Retrofit, for the 168th Air Refueling Wing.

·         $800,000 - Fairbanks - Expandable Rigid Wall Composite Shelter, for improvements to shelters used for carrying out sensitive electronics and calibration repair and maintenance missions.

·         $800,000 - Fort Greely - Post Security Enhancements.

·         $500,000 - Fox - Permafrost Tunnel, for strategic communication and scientific exploration regarding infrastructure development in the Arctic.

·         $300,000 - Fort Greely - IT and Information Management Upgrades.

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