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Begich Protects Alaska Interests in Defense Bill


Begich Proposal Extends TRICARE Coverage for Dependent Children to Age 26
Troops Receive 1.4% Pay Raise

Committed to providing for Alaska and America’s service members during a time of war, U.S. Sen. Mark Begich supported today’s passage of defense legislation strengthening our military and their families. The legislation provides a 1.4% pay raise for military members and includes Begich’s proposal to extend TRICARE coverage for dependent children of military members until the age of 26.

“It is absolutely essential that we provide for our troops, giving them the equipment and services they need to do their jobs fighting conflicts on two fronts,” Begich said. “I am pleased we finally passed this legislation, which, unfortunately, was held up by politics and partisanship.”

The Senate passed the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2011 with the approval of all 100 Senators following bipartisan negotiations. The bill contains Begich’s TRICARE proposal, which was introduced in April, matching a provision of health care reform extending the benefit for dependent children to civilian families.

“Many members of the military won’t get a break for the holiday and it would have been disrespectful for the Senate to give itself a break without first providing for those serving our country,” Begich said. “I hope this news provides some small comfort to families spending the holidays away from a loved one who is serving overseas.”

The legislation authorizes $725 billion for the Department of Defense to strengthen our national defense and provide for military members and their families. This includes efforts to grow the military by renewing efforts to assist military recruiting and retention, and help military families by providing funds to aid local schools serving a large number of military children.

As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee Sen. Begich secured several Alaska provisions in the legislation:

· A land conveyance to the city of Whittier for purposes of economic development;

· An independent review of Alaska’s ground-based midcourse defense system to determine if the program requires more resources;

· A Sense of the Congress urging the Army, Air Force and other agencies work with the Alaska Railroad on the northern rail line extension;

· A Government Accountability Office study on Basic Housing Allowance rates to ensure service members are adequately compensated.

· Requires the Secretary of Defense to study Alaska National Guard Helicopter requirements to make sure they are properly resourced.

The legislation also provides $30 million of impact aid to local schools with a high enrollment of military children and $10 million in aid for local schools with enrollment changes due to base closures, for structure changes, or force relocations. It also requires the DoD to review the adequacy of education programs for military spouses.

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