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Defense Spending Bill Steers $332M to Alaska

Dec 21, 2022 | Arctic, Construction, Government, News

jber awacs

The military budget includes funding to replace the E-3 AWACS at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson with the E-7A Wedgetail.

AIRMAN 1ST CLASS EMILY FARNSWORTH | DVIDS

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for fiscal year 2023 includes $332 million in military construction and equipment for Alaska and the Arctic region.

$857 Billion Military Budget

Among the construction authorizations are $100 million for an extension of the runway at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson (JBER) and $68 million for a dormitory at Clear Space Force Station.

Congress also added funding for items that had been zeroed out in the president’s budget proposal. Those include $63 million for an aircraft maintenance hangar at JBER, $50 million to upgrade Fort Wainwright recreational facilities, $5.2 million for the removal of perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS)-contaminated soil at JBER, and $5 million for Alaska Long Range Radar Site Digitalization.

The NDAA also adds $300 million more than the president’s budget request to accelerate acquisition of the E-7A Wedgetail, an airborne radar aircraft developed by Boeing for the Australian military. Based on the 737 airframe, the E-7A is meant to replace the E-3 Sentry AWACS, based on the much older Boeing 707, which is flown by crews at JBER.

“With $332 million authorized for military construction and maintenance, and many other provisions we were able to secure in this NDAA, our state will be further cemented as the center of gravity for America’s Arctic security operations,” says US Senator Dan Sullivan.

As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sullivan added thirty-three provisions to the NDAA. The bill authorizes $857 billion in defense funding, increasing the topline by $45 billion over the Biden administration’s proposal and representing 4.6 percent in inflation-adjusted growth over the previous year’s defense budget.

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One provision led by Sullivan authorizes $1 billion for the National Defense Stockpile, nearly $750 million more than the Biden administration’s request, to acquire strategic and critical minerals currently in shortfall.

The NDAA passed the US Senate last week by a vote of 83-11. However, the authorizations must be funded through the Omnibus Appropriations Act, which adds $772.5 billion in non-defense discretionary spending to the military spending package. Not all of Alaska’s requests survived in the final version that passed this week.

Arctic Mission

polar security cutter
Authorization of $167 million would pay for a third Polar Security Cutter, part of a new generation to replace the US Coast Guard’s two aging icebreakers.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Pamela Manns | DVIDS

Folded into the NDAA is the Don Young Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2022, named for the late congressman. Major authorizations include $167 million for a third Polar Security Cutter and $150 million for the procurement of a commercially available icebreaker. Sullivan calls the latter provision “a gap strategy to support the Arctic mission while the Polar Security Cutters are being built, better positioning Alaska to be the homeport location for the vessel.”

However, the Omnibus Appropriations Bill cuts funding for the icebreakers. Thus, Sullivan voted against the omnibus package, although he acknowledges that it funds other Alaska priorities, such as disaster relief for fishermen. 

The NDAA includes a provision to benefit fisherman, requiring the Coast Guard to work with the Defense and State Departments and the fishing community to improve how mariners are notified of military activities within the US exclusive economic zone.

“This legislation will improve the communication systems our mariners rely on to stay safe and alert on the high seas—a key concern of Alaska fishermen in the wake of the Russian naval exercises off of our coastline in 2020,” Sullivan says.

The NDAA also includes the Water Resources Development Act of 2022, which has a provision increasing federal cost-sharing for the Nome Arctic Deep Draft Port, which should save the community an estimated $132 million. It also authorizes a navigation project for the Elim Subsistence Harbor, with the federal government paying $99 million of the $101.5 million price tag.

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