Recent Press Releases

Washington, D.C. —  Senator John Thune today highlighted important provisions in the Fiscal Year 2010 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations bill, which the Senate today passed by a vote of 100-0. The bill provides a total of $133.9 billion for military construction and veterans affairs, as well as advance funding for veterans medical programs in FY2011, a key accomplishment that will give more stability and predictability to veterans health care programs.

“This bill demonstrates the Senate’s commitment to today’s troops as well as those who have served in the past,” said Thune. “Our veterans have made great sacrifices in service to our nation, and it is important that Congress fulfills our obligation to them. Similarly, we have obligations to meet the needs of today’s troops. The projects in South Dakota I have worked to secure funding for will help improve our state’s military facilities and enable those who serve at them to better fulfill their missions.”

Significantly, the bill provides $48.2 billion in advance funding for veterans health care, which will be made available in October of 2010, the beginning of the next fiscal year. This funding was authorized last month by the enactment of the Veterans Health Care Budget Reform and Transparency Act, a bill cosponsored by Senator Thune. In 19 of the past 22 years, including this year, Congress has failed to provide funding for the VA before the end of the fiscal year. With advance funding now made available for VA health care, the uncertainty and instability in the VA health care system caused by political gamesmanship should be substantially diminished.

The military construction portion of the bill provides $23.2 billion for military infrastructure and housing. Senator Thune’s military construction funding requests contained in the bill, which were originally authorized in the Defense Authorization bill due to Senator Thune’s efforts as a member of the Armed Services Committee, include:
  • $14.5 million to provide a central base deployment facility for Ellsworth AFB. This structure will replace the old base deployment facility which is partially condemned. The facility is used to prepare and process personnel and material for overseas deployment.
  • $7.89 million to complete construction of the Joint Forces Headquarters Readiness Center at Camp Rapid in Rapid City. This building will provide the National Guard a facility to perform all tasks associated with readiness for national defense and homeland support missions.
  • $1.9 million to expand the Troop Medical Clinic at Camp Rapid. The Medical Clinic addition will provide additional bays, exam rooms, and administrative space, relieving serious overcrowding issues within the current facility.
  • $2.6 million to improve the munitions storage and maintenance facilities at Joe Foss Field in Sioux Falls. The construction will properly size and equip the facilities to support Air National Guard munitions requirements and improve unit readiness.

The Fiscal Year 2010 Veterans Affairs-Military Construction bill will now be reconciled with the version passed by the House of Representatives before it will be sent to the President for his consideration.