Defense Authorization Act Goes to President with Key Alaska Provisions
ATG Benefits, Missile Defense, Military Projects Moving Ahead
With several key provisions and projects that will benefit Alaska, U.S. Sen. Mark Begich on Oct. 22 praised the final passage of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010. The Act authorizes $550.2 billion in the base budget for the Department of Defense and Department of Energy, as well as $130.2 billion in the overseas contingency operations budget.
The passing of the National Defense Authorization Act also solidifies several critical initiatives sponsored by Sen. Begich, a member of the Armed Services Committee, and provides greatly increased benefits for soldiers, families, and communities in Alaska, while ensuring a strong national defense posture.
"After months of hard work and great debate and discussion, I feel tremendous pride in the passage of this Act," Begich said. "Alaska's military members, veterans, federal employees, and several communities will benefit significantly when the president signs this important legislation. This is some of the most rewarding work I've done in my first several months in office."
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) by including a legislative provision that would count ATG service as Active duty for retirement purposes in the Act.
· Prohibits increases in TRICARE copayments for inpatient hospital services for one year.
· Authorizes the Secretary of Defense to increase the Army's active-duty end strength by 30,000 above 2010 levels during FY2011 and FY2012. The Secretary of Defense has already approved the increase of 22,000 of these personnel which will compensate for the wounded warriors and non-deployable soldiers, ensuring deploying units have the appropriate number of assigned personnel.
· Provisions to reduce barriers to absentee voting for military and overseas voters which has been incorporated in to the Act.
· Increases the Department of Defense's cost share of the National Guard Youth Challenge Program from 60 to 75 percent, ensuring that this important program for Alaska continues to be funded providing opportunities to help troubled and challenged youth.
· Requires the Office of Reintegration Programs in DOD to establish, as a part of the Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program, a program to provide National Guard and Reserve members and their families with training in suicide prevention.
· Sen. Begich, with Sen. Daniel Akaka, secured pay equity for federal employees in Alaska and Hawaii and other non-foreign U.S. territories by phasing out cost of living adjustments and phasing in locality pay which allows for increased pensions for workers in these areas.
· Repeals the National Security Personnel System, a subjective personnel management system proposed by the Bush Administration which stripped employees of many basic work place rights.
Military Installation and Property Support
· Authorizes military construction and housing programs totaling $23.2 billion. Alaska will receive $306 million in funding to construct new facilities at Fort Richardson, Fort Wainwright, Elmendorf AFB, and Eielson AFB.
· At the request of Sen. Begich and Rep. Don Young (R-AK), the Act provides the Army the necessary legislative authority required to convey the Haines Tank Farm in Haines, Alaska to the Chilkoot Indian Association for economic redevelopment purposes in conjunction with the local community.
· Fully funds the Formerly Utilized Defense Sites (FUDS) account, ensuring environmental restoration efforts will not be constrained by funding for these projects. Alaska has over 200 Formerly Used Defense Sites.
Missile Defense - Addressing National Security
· $20 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. Sen. Begich secured a provision to prohibit irreversible action on Missile Filed Two silos, provide for construction of seven silos in that field and sets forth restrictions on decommissioning of Missile Field 1 to preserve capacity for employment of interceptors. A provision was included which requires a detailed assessment of the GMD system for how DOD will achieve and sustain its planned GMD capability.
Alaska Defense Projects Authorized in the Act at the request of Sen. Begich:
• National Guard Counterdrug Program - $30 million
• Future Tactical Truck Carbon Composite Shelter & Retrofit - $2 million
· Expandable Rigid Wall Composite Shelter - $1 million
• Permafrost Tunnel - $500,000
· Combat Pistol Range, Fort Richardson, $4.9 million