The U.S. Senate approved two major federal funding packages August 23 including a federal Fiscal Year 2019 budget that contains provisions important to Alaska military bases along with a pay raise for armed services personnel.
The funding measure was approved by a vote of 85–7, said Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who is a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, which had earlier approved the measure.
The bill, H.R. 6157, now goes to a conference committee where differenced with a U.S. House version will be reconciled.
The package provides appropriations to support various national priorities within the Departments of Defense, Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and other related agencies.
The legislation includes an increase in funding for the Pentagon, the largest pay raise for our troops in a decade along with increased National Institute of Health funding and new resources for opioid treatment, prevention, and recovery programs.
Of importance for Alaska’s military, the defense portion of the bill contains these provisions:
Modernizing Air Force Training Ranges: Includes $88.9 million for modernizations, including the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex in Interior Alaska, to meet the challenges of preparing fighter pilots for fifth generation warfare. These funds will pay for new technology such as threat emulators, targets and decoys, detection systems and communications equipment which will enable F-22 and F-35 crews to prepare for advances in the air warfare capabilities of potential adversaries.
Defense Community Infrastructure Pilot Project: Includes $20 million to startup a new grant program which helps communities pay for off-base infrastructure near military bases.
Spaceports:Provides$10 million to ensure private spaceports, like Pacific Spaceport Alaska in Kodiak, maintain their readiness to carry out defense missions.
Innovative Readiness Training: Provides a $10 million budget increase for the Innovative Readiness Training program, which brings military reservists from across the country to Alaska for advanced training in remote construction and healthcare delivery.
Secure Power Generation: Contains $8 million to determine the feasibility of secure power generation and distribution on military facilities in remote environments. Second year funding of $3 million is provided for an evaluation of distributed generation on Eielson Air Force Base.
Precision Approach Radar: Provides $5 million to replace an aging Precision Approach Radar at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.
Permafrost Tunnel Research Facility: Provides a $4 million increase for improvements to the Corps of Engineers Permafrost Tunnel Research Facility near Fairbanks.
Arctic Sustainment Package: Provides for the purchase of additional Arctic Sustainment Packages for the Alaska Air National Guard from a $900 million fund to purchase equipment for the National Guard and Reserves. Arctic Sustainment Packages are used by search and rescue elements of the Alaska Air National Guard to sustain rescuers and victims in Arctic environments.
Water Supply Contamination Reimbursement: Includes $45 million to reimburse community water supply agencies for contamination of certain firefighting foam chemicals used at Air Force installations, including Eielson Air Force Base and Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.
Military Pay Raise: Includes funds to provide for a 2.6% pay increase to military personnel.
Arctic Broadband Infrastructure:Includes language that requires the Defense Department to evaluate the current state of broadband infrastructure in the Arctic against anticipated needs and to report on the balance between supply and demand of critical and strategic minerals which are used in defense hardware.
Health Research and Development Programs: Provides $330 million for peer-reviewed medical research. Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski once again championed funding for research into ALS (“Lou Gehrig’s Disease”) by providing $10 to the program. The VA has determined that the presence of ALS in veterans is presumed to be service connected, as they are disproportionately affected by ALS.
Missile Defense: Provides $9.9 billion for the Missile Defense Agency, which includes $100 million for a new space based program to track incoming missiles. It fully funds the President’s budget request of $500 million to support Israeli cooperative missile defense programs.
F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Aircrafts: The Senate has proposed to purchase 77 new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft in 2019. In addition, the Senate recommended an additional $120 million in advance procurement for the F-35A in order to assist the Air Force in achieving full rate production quantities in fiscal year 2020 – which coincides with the arrival of the first F-35A at Eielson Air Force Base.
Family Advocacy Program: Adds $20 million to the Defense Family Advocacy Program targeted to address recent reports about child-on-child sexual assaults on military installations.