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Begich Amendments to Defense Authorization Help Alaska

Expands benefits for Guard & Reserve, Land exchange wins approval

In an effort to continually improve benefits and services for those serving our country, U.S. Sen. Mark Begich offered an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2012 expanding benefits around travel and services for National Guard & Reserve members.

Begich’s amendment, the National Guard, Reserve “Gray Area” Retiree and Surviving Spouse Space-Available Travel Equity Act, gives National Guard members, Reservists and their families the same space-available travel privileges on Department of Defense (DoD) aircraft as active duty service members. Currently, members and retirees of the reserve component have limited space-available travel opportunities on DoD aircraft.

“Travel is such a big part of life in Alaska, we need to make sure it is easy and economical for our National Guard and Reserve members,” Begich said. “These men and women serve shoulder-to-shoulder with our active duty members. I just attended a deployment ceremony and shook the hands of 150 of our Alaska Guard members deploying to Afghanistan. They certainly deserve equal benefits for themselves and their families.” 

The amendment also provides surviving spouses of retired military members, or of those who died in the line of duty, with space-available travel privileges. At this time, surviving spouses retain no space-available travel privileges after the death of a loved one.

Begich’s amendment is endorsed by the National Guard Association of the United States, Air Force Sergeants Association and the Gold Star Wives.  The amendment will be considered by the Senate in the coming days during consideration of the full NDAA.

A member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sen. Begich was successful earlier this week offering an amendment authorizing a land exchange between the Municipality of Anchorage, Eklutna, Inc., and Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson. It resolves potential land use conflicts and makes the best use of the property. The airmen and soldiers at J-BER will have more land available for vital training while Eklutna will retain property in accordance with the North Anchorage Land Agreement. The Municipality will be allowed to expand its landfill as necessary. The amendment is now part of the underlying bill.

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