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Senate Passes Defense Authorization Bill

Includes Several Thune Provisions that Benefit South Dakota

December 14, 2007

Washington, D.C. —  Senator John Thune today issued the below statement following Senate passage of the FY2008 Defense Authorization bill:

"The Defense Authorization Bill paves the way for many initiatives that will make America safer and give South Dakota the opportunity to contribute to our national defense. It also posthumously honors Woodrow Keeble, a Master Sergeant and member of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate Tribe, with the Medal of Honor for his valiant service in the Korean War. In a year where partisanship has suffocated the legislative process, I am proud to say that we took the right action on this important bill," Thune said.

Highlights in the FY2008 Defense Authorization bill passed by the Senate today:
  • The President is authorized and requested to award the Medal of Honor to Woodrow Keeble, a South Dakotan and a member of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate Tribe, for his extraordinary service in the U.S. Army during the Korean War. Senator Thune has been working to secure this distinction for Master Sergeant Keeble since his time in the House of Representatives.

  • The bill authorizes a three and a half percent across-the-board pay raise for all uniformed service personnel.

  • The bill incorporates the "Wounded Warrior Act," which authorizes increased funding for health care and benefits for recovering wounded veterans.

  • The bill includes Senator Thune's amendment to require the GAO to conduct a study of the handling of Butterbaugh claims by the Defense Finance and Accounting Service for reservists who are federal employees.

  • The bill authorizes payment of combat-related special compensation to service members who are forced out of service by injury.

  • The bill reduces the reserve retirement age to below 60. Reserve members can draw retirement pay by three months for every 90 days of service on active duty.

  • The bill extends the prohibition on increases in TRICARE fees for retirees and reservists.

  • The bill authorizes federal civilian employees who are in the National Guard or Reserves to continue their coverage under the Federal Employees Group Life Insurance for up to 24 months when mobilized.

The FY2008 Defense Authorization bill also includes the following military construction projects in South Dakota:

$16.6 million for a Base Civil Engineering Administrative Facility at Ellsworth Air Force Base.
  • The Civil Engineering Squadron is currently located in four buildings that are geographically separated on Ellsworth AFB. All are more than 45 years old and are high maintenance, energy inefficient, and operationally inadequate to suit civil engineering operational and customer service needs. A new complex needs to be constructed to consolidate all civil engineering functions in order to enhance engineering support and to eliminate wasted resources on four decrepit facilities.

$7.9 million for a Base Civil Engineering Maintenance Facility for the South Dakota National Guard at Joe Foss Field in Sioux Falls.
  • The existing Air National Guard maintenance complex is 50 percent undersized and inadequate for the 114th Fighter Wing. The building cannot be improved without incurring unreasonable maintenance and alteration costs. The existing civil engineer facilities are wooden World War II buildings.

$3.7 million for the South Dakota Reserve Joint Armed Forces Reserve Center in Sioux Falls.

Senator Thune is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. He was also a member of the conference committee that reconciled differences with the bill passed by the House of Representatives.

The House approved the Defense Authorization conference report earlier this week and now the bill will be sent to the President for his consideration.