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Senate Passes Defense Authorization Bill

Includes Thune Amendment Preserving Next Generation Bomber, Ellsworth Land Conveyance Amendment

July 24, 2009

Washington, D.C. —  Last night the U.S. Senate voted 87-7 to approve the National Defense Authorization bill for Fiscal Year 2010. The bill authorizes $680 billion in funding for the Department of Defense and the national security programs of the Department of Energy, including several South Dakota defense related projects. The bill also includes a 3.4 percent across the board pay raise for servicemen and women.

During the Armed Services Committee markup of the bill, Senator John Thune included an amendment to preserve the Next Generation Bomber program. The Next Generation Bomber program has been targeted for termination by the Obama Administration, even though almost half of the nation's bomber inventory pre-dates the Cuban Missile Crisis. In response to this proposal, Senator Thune introduced legislation earlier this year known as the Preserving Future United States Capability to Project Power Globally Act (S. 1044), which formed the basis of the Thune Amendment ultimately adopted during markup of the Defense Authorization bill. Not only is the Next Generation Bomber important for our nation's future security needs, but Ellsworth Air Force Base is uniquely suited to be the bed down location for the long range strike platform.

"The Next Generation Bomber is critical to preserving our nation's ability to project power as we face a future where potential adversaries continue to acquire sophisticated air defense systems," said Thune. "The adoption of my amendment is a step toward preserving this important long range strike capability."

Senator Thune, along with Senator Tim Johnson (D-SD), sponsored an amendment to the bill that resolved technical issues relating to the transfer of land from Ellsworth Air Force Base to the recently formed South Dakota Ellsworth Development Authority. The transfer is supported by the U.S. Air Force and state and local leaders.

The bill includes an amendment offered by Senator Thune to ensure that an independent and bipartisan panel will review the 2009 Quadrennial Defense Review currently being developed by the Department of Defense.

The bill also contains several additional items that directly impact South Dakota in the near term.

"South Dakota's Armed Forces personnel, military facilities, and research institutions make significant contributions to our national defense. By investing in these projects, we are ensuring America's men and women in uniform are prepared to meet any challenge in defending our country and defending freedom around the globe. South Dakota's projects are well-represented in the bill, and I will work to maintain them throughout the House and Senate conference process."

Senator Thune is a member of the Armed Services Committee and is the ranking Republican on the Airland Subcommittee, which oversees Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps tactical aviation programs in addition to Army programs.

The bill includes the following items relating to South Dakota:
    B-1 provisions:
  • $257.6 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. This funding includes a $2 million request by Senator Thune regarding a new radar for the B-1.
    Military Construction:
  • $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.
  • $7.9 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 the Air National Guard munitions requirements and improve unit readiness.
    Other items of interest:
  • $11 million for three research and development initiatives at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology. These initiatives will investigate advanced materials processing used to repair Navy weapon systems, explore smart integrated materials and manufacturing processes for use in future weapon systems, and develop sophisticated methods to convert biomass to biofuels.
  • $4 million for research at South Dakota State University to create renewable jet fuel from lignocellulosic feedstocks. This project will concentrate on creating a biofuel with the energy density and operating temperature range necessary for military aviation uses.
  • $2.5 million to expand technologies used to repair aging and battle damaged weapon systems. This project funds H.F. Webster, Inc. of Rapid City to expand techniques proven during the 2008 Aging Weapon Systems Repair Qualification Program. Results to date indicate repair cost savings of nearly 33 to 1 return on investment.
  • $127 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 video of impending threats to troops on the ground.
  • $4 million for Advanced Electronics Rosebud Integration (AERI), to validate and transition technical advancements in Army missile defense system electronics - reducing the size, weight, and cost of electronic circuit cards, components, wire harnesses, and electronic cabling. The AERI program is a program conducted at Rosebud Indian Reservation being structured to resolve a host of electronic circuitry production needs emanating from the world-wide movement to non-hazardous materials and lead-free circuitry as well as the explosive growth in U.S. Army's Space and Missile Defense Command (USASMDC) system complexity.
    Broad Highlights:
  • $680 billion bill overall funding level ($550 billion for standard Pentagon activities, $130 billion for wars in Afghanistan and Iraq)
  • Authorizes a 3.4 percent across the board pay raise for servicemen and women
  • Authorizes active duty end strength over the previous year for the following Services:
    • Army: 577,000 - an increase of 45,000
    • Marines: 202,100 - an increase of 8,100
    • Air Force: 331,700 - an increase of 14,650
    • Navy: 328,800 - an increase of 2,477
  • Provides $6.7 billion for the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) Vehicle Fund

The Senate-passed Defense Authorization bill will now be reconciled with the House-passed measure.