Defense Bill Brings Nearly $400 M in Facility Investment to Alaska
Military construction, important Begich amendments win approval
Supporting nearly $400 million in new military facility investments in Alaska, the U.S. Senate today gave approval of the Fiscal Year (FY) 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). As a result of work done by U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Alaska’s military members and operations around the state will receive funding for a number of key projects, missions and programs.
The bill authorizes a total of $527 billion in discretionary spending for the Department of Defense, which is $26 billion below the President’s request. It authorizes a 1.6 percent pay raise for military members and reauthorizes over 30 types of bonuses and special pay aimed at encouraging reenlistment.
“With nearly 9,000 Alaska-based troops serving in Afghanistan by the end of this year, this bill provides the funding necessary to make sure our service members are supported at home and overseas while eliminating wasteful Pentagon spending,” Begich said. “The military investments authorized in the bill keep our forces strong and ready to serve, while also supporting the economy with jobs and construction dollars.”
Also included in the bill are Begich’s amendments authorizing a land exchange between the Municipality of Anchorage, Eklutna, Inc., and Joint-Base-Elmendorf Richardson; and allowing for expanded space-available travel for National Guard and Reserve members as well as surviving spouses.
“I recently shook the hands of 150 Alaska National guard members getting ready to deploy to Afghanistan. They are fighting for our country on the front lines and deserve expanded benefits.” Begich said.
Highlights of the bill include:
Alaska Military Construction = $392.8 million
Aviation Complex, Ph 3A $114M
Joint-Base Elmendorf Richardson
Brigade Complex, Ph 2 $74M
Organizational Parking $3.6M
Physical Fitness Facility $26M
Brigade Combat Team (Light) Complex, (480 RM) $97M
Dormitory (168 RM) $45M
Upgrade Rail Line $14.8M (Defense Logistics Agency)
Special Operations Forces – Kodiak Alaska
Cold Weather Maritime Training Facility $18.4M
Fully funds Ground-based Midcourse Defense at $1.2 billion
In addition to funding important Alaska investments, Sen. Begich was also successful in eliminating wasteful defense spending including $804 million for an over-budget and behind-schedule air defense research and development program called the Medium Extended Air Defense System (MEADS). Sen. Begich, along with Sen. John McCain, led the effort to eliminate funding for the program which the U.S. military has said it has no intention of using. Additionally, Begich supported a decrease of more than $188 in military construction for Guam until a realistic and cost effective plan is put into place for the relocation of Marines to Guam.
Other key provisions of the bill supported by Begich include:
Telehealth - Waives state licensing requirements for fully credentialed DoD contractor, civilian or Tricare network provider mental health care professionals when they are performing federal behavioral and mental health duties, like telehealth. This will expand mental and behavioral health treatment to active duty, National Guardsmen, Reservists, veterans and military retirees in rural states like Alaska with a shortage of mental health care professionals and allows military patients and retirees to be treated from home versus having to go the military facility for treatment;
Basic Allowance Housing – Directs the Department of Defense to improve the accuracy and efficiency of the process to determine Basic Housing Allowances. A recent report released by GAO done at the request of Senator Begich validated his concerns the Department of Defense process for determining housing allowance for our military doesn’t work in Alaska;
Study on Air Force Test & Training Range Infrastructure – Directs the Secretary of the Air Force to conduct a study on the ability of major air test and training range infrastructure to support current and future Air Force requirements, as well as a funding strategy for required investments to keep the range viable. This will help support the viability of the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex;
Total Force Integration Initiative - Language directs the Secretary of the Air Force to implement requirements based process for allocating man-days to associate units. Associate units are comprised of Active Duty and Reserve Forces. The lack of a process has caused undue hardship on these units and inconsistency since the Reserves never know if their funding will be provided;
Benchmarks for Progress and Plan for Expedited Withdrawal in Afghanistan - Requires the Administration to provide benchmarks to evaluate the progress being made toward the goal of transitioning security responsibilities in Afghanistan to the government of Afghanistan by Dec. 31, 2014 and a plan for expediting the pace of the current planned drawdown of U.S. troops.