Recent Press Releases

Washington, DC —  Senator John Thune today announced the passage of the conference report for the Fiscal Year 2006 Defense Authorization bill. The Senate passed the bill late last night.

"I was proud to support this important legislation that authorizes funding for important projects that will directly benefit South Dakota—our veterans, our active military and many hard-working men and women throughout the state," Thune said.

"Included are significant programs to upgrade Ellsworth and authorize expanded military construction to continue to modernize one of South Dakota's most important and prized facilities. By making important investments in Ellsworth today and anchoring it with advancements and services that benefit the entire nation, we are taking critical steps in ensuring a strong and lasting future for Ellsworth.

"This bill also includes record health care and benefit funding for our state's veterans. These are men and women who have made great sacrifices on our behalf and deserve only the best in benefits and care in return."

In addition, the FY 2006 Defense Authorization bill authorizes two key provisions secured by Senator Thune: a measure requiring the Department of Defense to examine increased use of ethanol for military use; and language that requires the Department of Defense to study whether the Space-Based Radar (SBR) could be used to provide information to the scientific community and elsewhere in the private sector.

"I'm pleased to report this bill included two additional, important provisions I was able to secure to benefit South Dakota," Thune said. "Under this authorization bill, the Defense Department will be required to look into ways to increase the military's use of ethanol. This is yet another way to promote South Dakota's ethanol industry and expand ethanol production and use.

"This bill also requires the Defense Department to expedite its study on Space-Based Radar, which I have been pursuing as a potential additional mission for Ellsworth."

Highlights in the conference report for the Fiscal Year 2006 Defense Authorization bill that will have an impact in South Dakota:
    Military Construction
  • Authorizes $8.4 million for construction of the Maintenance Group Headquarters Facility at Ellsworth Air Force Base. This new facility will aid the mechanics and technicians who maintain the B-1B Lancer by providing a state of the art facility with maintenance training and maintenance simulators.

  • Authorizes $14.383 million to replace 60 family housing units at Ellsworth to ensure that base housing will be of the highest quality. Upon completion, the entire inventory will be less than 20 years old.

  • Authorizes $5.5 million for Security Forces and communications upgrades at Joe Foss Air National Guard base in Sioux Falls. The base requires an adequately sized and properly configured facility to accommodate security force functions to include command, administration, pass and ID, law enforcement, arms vault with cleaning and maintenance area, classroom, training and counseling, mobility storage, mobility pallet build-up area, and locker rooms. Joe Foss Field is home to 18 F-16's.

  • Department of Veterans Affairs
  • Authorizes $70.2 billion for the Department of Veterans Affairs (the highest amount of funding in the history of the VA), with $22.5 billion designated for veterans' medical services. The bill provides $2.2 billion for mental health services. The bill also directs the VA and Defense Departments to jointly study the onset and nature of post-traumatic stress disorder, and provides $412 million for medical and prosthetic research.

On the national front, the bill includes the following highlights:

  • Authorizes $491.5 billion for national security programs at the Defense and Energy departments, namely $441.5 billion in regular budget authority, and $50 billion in supplemental funds for operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the global War on Terror.

  • Authorizes a 3.1-percent across-the-board pay raise for service members.

  • Authorizes funds for force protection needs, including funding for: additional up-armored, high-mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicles (HMMWV) for the Army and Marine Corps; the facilitation of the Army's recapitalization and modernization program for tactical wheeled vehicles; tactical wheeled vehicle add-on armor programs; enhanced body armor; certain jammer initiatives to counter the ongoing threat from improvised explosive devices (IED) in Iraq and Afghanistan; the procurement of Marine Corps and Army night vision equipment.

  • Contains the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005, which provides for uniform standards for the interrogation of persons under the detention of the Department of Defense; prohibits cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment of persons under the custody or control of the U.S. Government; and provides procedures for the legal review of detainees held by the Department of Defense at Guantanamo Bay.