Recent Press Releases

Washington, D.C. —  Senator John Thune today announced that the Senate approved the National Defense Authorization bill for Fiscal Year 2009. The bill authorizes funding for the Department of Defense and the national security programs of the Department of Energy, including several South Dakota defense related projects and a Thune sponsored energy initiative.

"While I am disappointed with the Democratic majority's draconian procedural tactics during debate on this bill, I am pleased the Senate passed this important piece of legislation," said Thune. "I worked hard to ensure South Dakota's top defense related projects were well-represented in the Senate version of the bill and will strive to maintain them in the final version of the bill. Additionally, to continue providing solutions to our energy crisis, I authored language that leverages Department of Defense buying power to help foster a market to produce more domestic alternative fuels."
Senator Thune is a member of the Armed Services Committee and is the highest ranking Republican on the Readiness and Management Subcommittee, which oversees military readiness including military energy issues, as well as military construction, training, logistics, maintenance, and installations. Under the Readiness and Management Subcommittee's jurisdiction, $54.4 million in military construction projects were authorized for South Dakota.
The bill also provides a 3.9 percent across-the-board pay raise for all military personnel, a half a percent higher than the President's request, and enhances dental and medical benefits for the National Guard and Reserves. The bill also authorizes active duty end strengths for the Army and Marine Corps of 532,400 and 194,000, respectively, an increase of 7,000 soldiers and 5,000 marines from 2008 authorized levels. It also authorizes the DOD Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder/Traumatic Brain Injury (PTSD/TBI) Center of Excellence to conduct pilot programs to improve treatment and care for soldiers.
The bill includes the following approved projects for South Dakota:
  • $29 million to provide a Joint Forces Headquarters Readiness Center in Rapid City. This building provides the National Guard with a facility to perform all tasks associated with readiness for national defense and homeland support missions.

  • $14.4 million to construct a new multi-purpose National Guard building at Camp Rapid in Rapid City. The building replaces tin hutments built in 1970 and provides a new structure to facilitate unit training, administration, security, and command and control.

  • $11 million to upgrade the base entry and perimeter gates at Ellsworth AFB. This addition will provide increased force protection and help the base to comply with current antiterrorism requirements.

  • $27.9 million to acquire spiral upgrade kits for targeting system pods for Air National Guard F-16 aircraft, like those at Joe Foss Field. These pods are used to help find Improvised Explosive Devices and can also transmit real-time images of impending threats to troops on the ground.

  • $206 million for the modernization and upgrade of 67 B-1B bombers. These funds would go toward the procurement, modernization and upgrade of combat capabilities of the entire U.S. Air Force B-1B bomber fleet, including those at Ellsworth AFB.

  • $2 million to develop technology to further reduce the weight and enhance the efficiency of electric drive and power generation systems for U.S. Army vehicles compared to current combustion engine-transmission drive methods. This project is under development by Dakota Power in Rapid City.

  • $475,000 to advance study on Improvised Explosive Devices. South Dakota School of Mines and Technology leads this project, which simulates IED effects in different soils and aims to improve the military's ability to detect and defeat these increasingly deadly enemy weapons.

Thune sponsored a notable section of the bill designed to help the Department of Defense deal with the current U.S. energy crisis. His initiative provides the Department of Defense with expanded authority to enter into multi-year contracts for the purchase of alternative and synthetic fuels. The legislation specifies the DOD may enter contracts for up to 10 years if the fuel is cost-effective and environmentally friendly.

Thune commented, "The domestic alternative fuels market is on the verge of taking off, and the long term contracting authority included in the underlying legislation provides sorely needed stability for these domestic fuel producers. Like the average consumer, our military is also feeling pressure on its budget caused by higher prices at the fuel pump. By energizing the over $12 billion dollar buying power of the military's fuel budget, we can increase production of secure, domestic energy sources and stop sending so much of our money overseas to unfriendly foreign regimes."