REPORT FROM CONGRESS
By Congressman Roger F. Wicker
WICKER TOUTS BILL BOOSTING NATIONAL DEFENSE
One of Congress' most important actions during this past month was passage of a defense spending bill that ensures our armed forces will have the resources and support they need to fight the global war on terror and protect our country. The 2007 Defense Appropriations Act cleared the House of Representatives and Senate by large margins and awaits President Bush's signature. The package also includes funding for a wide range of projects in Mississippi.
I am a member of the Defense subcommittee and served on the panel that worked out differences between the House and Senate bills. We were also fortunate to have Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Thad Cochran's leadership in crafting a final version. The measure includes funds for critical troop protection needs, new equipment and weapons, and research and development activities.
ADVANCING MISSISSIPPI PROJECTS
Universities and private sector firms in our state are key contributors to the national defense effort. The bill contains money for projects at the University of Mississippi and Mississippi State University for acoustics testing on military aircraft, developing next-generation unmanned aerial vehicles, and creating impact-resistant composite structures.
Defense and aerospace companies in our state will get funding to build motors for Navy ships and high-performance launch vehicles for the U.S. Air Force. Other work focuses on producing advanced radar systems and hypersonic weapons capable of reaching targets within minutes.
FUNDS FOR MILITARY PAY RAISE, EQUIPMENT
The bill contains a 2.2 percent pay raise for all military personnel, effective January 1, 2007, and an additional $500 million for the Army National Guard to meet equipment needs. Procurement funding will enable the Pentagon to purchase new fighter aircraft, Apache helicopters, and Navy ships. Among the Navy's acquisitions are two DDX destroyers to be built at shipyards in Mississippi and Maine.
The funding package for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan contains nearly $3 billion for new jamming equipment to counter the use of improvised explosive devices by insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan. It also provides additional body armor and other personal protection gear.
I was pleased that the bill contained nearly $10 billion to continue development of an anti-missile defense system. The legislation provides funds to establish a third missile defense site, this one in Europe, and equip it with 10 interceptors. The U. S. maintains two other ground-based missile defense sites in Greely, Alaska, and Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.
N. KOREA, IRAN CONCERNS REMAIN
The need to stay on track with anti-missile activities was reinforced last week when North Korea announced it was walking away from six-party talks aimed at curtailing its nuclear program activities. Iran also continues to thumb its nose at the world community while pursuing technology that could be used to develop nuclear weapons.