Recent Press Releases

Washington, D.C. —  Senator John Thune today announced that the Senate Armed Services Committee unanimously 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.

"South Dakota has a long history of contributing to the nation's defense," said Thune. "Investing in these projects continues this tradition and is important to ensuring America's men and women in uniform are prepared to meet any challenge. South Dakota's projects are well-represented in the Armed Services Committee bill, and I will work to maintain them in the final version of the bill."

Senator Thune is a member of the Armed Services Committee and is the ranking Republican on the Readiness and Management Subcommittee, which oversees military readiness including 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 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 included the following approved projects:
  • $29 million to provide a Joint Forces Headquarters Readiness Center in Rapid City. This building provides the National Guard 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, SD.

  • $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.

  • $3 million to mature emerging Cold Spray technologies. This technique is particularly useful to repair hydraulic lines and minor skin cracks on aging aircraft and could potentially save the Department of Defense millions of dollars in maintenance costs. This project is a cooperative effort between H.F. Webster in Rapid City and the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology.

The bill is expected to be considered by full Senate in the coming weeks.