Abraham: Defense spending bill includes big wins for Louisiana bases
WASHINGTON - Congressman Ralph Abraham, M.D., R-Alto, voted today for the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) conference committee report, the final step before the defense spending bill can go to the President. It passed the House with overwhelming bipartisan support on a 359-54 vote.
The bill includes many wins for Louisiana military bases and families, including a pay raise for troops and funding for upgrades at Barksdale Air Force Base and the Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base in Belle Chasse.
It includes a 2.6 percent pay raise for troops, their largest in nine years and the second in the last two years. It also includes language that Dr. Abraham wrote directing the National Guard to provide a report on their behavioral health programs in an effort to reduce suicide rates.
"Louisiana's military bases play critical roles in the national defense strategy of the United States. I'm proud we could secure tens of millions of dollars to enhance these bases and support them and our troops as they work to keep our country safe," said Dr. Abraham, a member of the House Armed Services Committee.
Dr. Abraham wrote language into the bill that provides $12.25 million for a new entrance and gate complex at Barksdale Air Force Base, a necessary infrastructure upgrade that must happen before the base can move forward with a planned $500 million weapons storage facility. The new facility, which is scheduled to begin construction in FY21, will allow Barksdale to house nuclear weapons that are currently stored at a base in North Dakota. Moving them to the Global Strike Command headquarters in Louisiana will improve response times in crisis situations.
The NDAA also includes $295 million to update the B-52 bombers housed at Barksdale with new engines, radars, communication technology, weapons bays and GPS interfaces. This will extend the useful life of the long-range heavy bombers into the 2050s.
The NDAA includes $39 million for the construction of new alert facilities at the Naval station in Belle Chasse. The base houses the Air National Guard's 159th Fighter Wing, which serves as a defense and responds to threats in the Gulf Coast region.
Dr. Abraham led the Louisiana Congressional delegation in a letter calling for the Barksdale gate and Belle Chasse construction funding to be included in the final version of the NDAA. It can be viewed here.
The Senate is expected to vote on the conference committee report within the next two weeks. President Trump is expected to sign the bill.