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Murkowski Announces Senate Approval of Funding for Alaska Projects in the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Bill

WASHINGTON, D.C. -  The Defense Department would spend nearly $336 million in military construction on Alaska's Army and Air Force installations in Fiscal Year 2010 under a $133.9 billion Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations bill approved today by the Senate, according to U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee. The legislation now goes to a joint House-Senate conference committee to reconcile differences in each chamber's version of the bill.

The bill includes $13.3 million in spending on Eielson Air Force Base that was not requested by the Obama administration but was included at Murkowski's request.

The bill also includes explicit authority, requested by Murkowski, for the Veterans Administration to enter into agreements with the Alaska Native Health System and Community Health Centers to provide medical, dental and behavioral health care to veterans who live in rural Alaska.

It would provide $50 million nationally to site new VA Community Based Outpatient Clinics in "rural and highly rural" communities. And for the first time, appropriators provided $48.2 million in advance appropriations for Veterans Administration medical accounts for Fiscal Year 2011, a move widely sought by veterans' organizations and endorsed by Murkowski.

The $13.3 million for Eielson Air Force Base provides $9.9 million for the completion of Arctic Utilidors and $3.45 million to light Taxiway Golf. Taxiway Golf currently must close after dark and during low visibility conditions. The project would allow for an increased operations tempo during Red Flag Alaska exercises and reduce the potential for airfield accidents. The spending bill also would provide $46 million in construction improvements for housing privatization at Fort Richardson and $52 million at Fort Wainwright.

The bill provides $44.7 billion for veterans' health care in Fiscal Year 2010, a $4.2 billion increase over 2009. Moreover, the bill also includes $48.2 billion in advance VA health funding for Fiscal Year 2011 which begins on October 1, 2010. This was made possible by the Veterans Health Care Budget Reform and Transparency Act, which President Obama signed into law on October 22, 2009. That legislation, which Murkowski cosponsored, enables Congress to budget two years of VA health funding each year. Veterans groups argued that the VA was hampered in addressing veterans' health care needs because of delays in congressional passage of its annual appropriations legislation.

Also today, the Senate approved amendments supported by Murkowski which set aside $50 million for the conversion of unused VA facilities to house homeless veterans and another $5 million for grants to veterans groups to help veterans access their benefits.

"This bill is great news for Alaska veterans," Murkowski said. "The bill also clarifies that the VA can partner with the Alaska Native Health System and Community Health Centers to serve our veterans living in rural Alaska where the VA has no health care facilities. I am encouraged by the conversations I have had with VA Secretary Shinseki that suggest that the VA is finally getting serious about ensuring that our veterans who live off the road system are not disenfranchised from accessing their earned veterans benefits."

The bill provides funding for the following Alaska items:

Fort Richardson
Warrior in Transition Complex                                  $43.0 Million
Airborne Sustainment Training Complex                  $ 6.1 Million
Combat Pistol Range                                                 $ 4.9 Million
Health Clinic                                                             $ 3.5 Million
Training Aids Center                                                 $ 2.0 Million

Elmendorf Air Force Base
Aeromedical Services/Mental Health Clinic             $25.0 Million
F-22 Weapons Load Training Facility                       $12.6 Million
Red Flag Alaska Operations Center                          $ 3.1 Million

Clear Air Force Station
Power Plant Facility                                                  $24.3 Million

Fort Wainwright
Aviation Task Force Complex, Phase I                     $125 Million*
Warrior in Transition Complex                                  $ 28 Million
Railhead Complex                                                     $ 26 Million
Aviation Unit Operations Complex                          $ 19 Million

Eielson Air Force Base
Arctic Utilidors (Phase 11)                                        $ 9.9 Million
Taxiway Golf Lighting                                              $ 3.4 Million

*NOTE: The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010, which has been signed into law by President Obama and the House version of the FY2010 Military Construction Appropriations Bill set aside $95 million for this project. Final funding levels for this project will be determined by the Military Construction Appropriations Conference Committee.

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