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Skelton says defense bill is good for America’s military, Missouri jobs
Skelton says defense bill is good for America’s military, Missouri jobs

Congressman Ike Skelton
WASHINGTON, D.C. (Oct. 25, 2009) — As chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, I look after our troops and their families. I am pleased to report that the House of Representatives and Senate have approved H.R. 2647, the Fiscal Year 2010 National Defense Authorization Act, or defense bill. This national security legislation is good for our military. For Missouri, it is good for the economy and jobs — not just in the communities that surround Whiteman Air Force Base and Fort Leonard Wood, but also for many other areas of our state in which businesses receive Department of Defense contracts and work.

Whiteman Air Force Base benefits from more than $12.9 million in funding from the defense bill. The legislation expands Whiteman to help the base protect its boundaries, improve security, and prevent encroachment. It also provides for a new explosive ordnance disposal operations complex. The buildings currently used for the explosive ordnance disposal mission at Whiteman are too small and no longer meet the Air Force’s requirements. The new complex will consolidate explosive ordnance disposal operations into a single state-of-the-art facility.

The defense bill provides substantial military construction funds for Fort Leonard Wood. It authorizes $99 million to construct new training barracks to house soldiers sent to Fort Leonard Wood for Advanced Individual Training; provides $17 million for a new vehicle driver’s course to accommodate the increasing number of service members who need heavy truck driver training; invests $27 million in a digital training facility to provide up-to-date computer labs and classrooms to support chemical, military police, and engineer professional military education courses; and creates a new Warrior in Transition complex to help wounded warriors and their families prepare to return to active duty or back to civilian life. This military construction creates American jobs and generates revenue for families and businesses. The military personnel who move through these bases also spend a great deal of money in the local communities that surround them, eating at restaurants, going to the movies, buying and furnishing homes, and purchasing cars, among other things.

I am committed to making sure Fort Leonard Wood has what it needs to accommodate the growing number of soldiers on post and offer the quality of life Americans expect for our men and women in uniform. So, I worked to make sure the defense bill provides additions and alterations to the health and dental clinics to increase the post’s capacity to provide essential health care services for soldiers and their families.

Overall, the defense bill authorizes $550.2 billion in budget authority for the Department of Defense (DOD) and the Department of Energy (DOE). It concentrates on our military’s critical readiness needs in order to meet current military challenges and prepare for the future by providing additional funding for military equipment — including for the National Guard and Reserve. It also increases the size of the military, provides our troops with a 3.4 percent pay raise, and prohibits fee increases on TRICARE inpatient care for one year.

The House approved the defense bill by a vote of 281 to 146 on Oct. 8. The Senate approved the bill on Oct. 22 by a vote of 68 to 29. The President must sign the bill before it becomes law.

Congressman Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) serves as chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. Congressman Skelton’s website is at www.house.gov/skelton.

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