Senate Retains Restoration of Retirement Benefits for Alaska Territorial Guard Members
Senate Passes $636 Billion Defense Appropriations Bill for Fiscal Year 2010 That Includes $21.4 Million for Interior Alaska Training Range
WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, announced Oct. 6 that the Senate rejected an effort by the Obama administration to deny a restoration of military retirement benefits to some two dozen Alaska Territorial Guard members who defended Alaska, then still a territory, during World War II.
The Senate passed a $636 billion Defense Appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2010 that included a provision, inserted by Murkowski and Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, to restore the retirement benefits to the ATG members whose World War II service in the ATG was considered active duty service until the Defense Department reversed its position on the matter earlier this year.
The Obama administration announced that it objected to Murkowski's provision, saying that counting the ATG's WWII service as 'active duty' would create a bad precedent. In a Senate floor speech last week, Murkowski said the precedent argument "defies logic and history," and she cited the Fiscal Year 2001 Defense Appropriations Act in which Congress recognized service in the ATG as active duty service. That bill required the Secretary of Defense to issue discharge certificates to each member of the ATG if it was determined that the nature and duration of the service warranted it.
"This is about honoring some two dozen elderly Native people, the few remaining survivors of a military unit that served our Nation with valor and contributed mightily to our success in World War II. I commend the Senate for doing the right thing by keeping this provision in the Defense Appropriations bill," Murkowski said.
The bill now goes to a Senate-House conference committee to iron out the differences in each chamber's bill. There is no ATG provision in the House-passed Defense Appropriations bill, so Murkowski, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, will be working to see that the provision stays in during conference.
The $636 billion defense appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2010 includes $21.4 million for enhancements to the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex in Interior Alaska.
"With these funds, the U.S. Military will be able to accomplish a number of projects including improving the road infrastructure throughout the complex, conducting environmental impact studies and procuring and installing instrumentation and equipment," Murkowski said. "These efforts will result in better access throughout the area as well as aid in providing U.S. and allied forces with the best training in the world when stationed in or deployed to Alaska to participate in Red Flag Alaska Exercises."
In addition to the training range project, the bill provides funding for the following items important to Alaska:
- Alaska Air National Guard, Eielson AFB -- $1.3 million for the renovation and retrofit of 168th Air Refueling Wing hangar and support facilities to enhance its critical mission of providing the air bridge to the Pacific for U.S. Military Forces.
- Fort Greely Post enhancements -- $1.1 million for Security and Information Technology enhancements. These enhancements would help Fort Greely to better carry out its mission of protecting the nation from foreign missile threats through the operation of the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense System.
- Alaskan Command, Elmendorf AFB -- $1.95 million for improvements to the command and control capabilities of the Alaska Command. This will allow for better communication and alignment with the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and enable the Alaskan Command to more effectively protect the sovereignty of U.S. airspace.