Landrieu Fights for Increased Military Construction, Veterans Funding
United States Senator Mary L. Landrieu, D-La., with other members of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies, today held a press conference on the $109.2 billion Military Construction/Veterans Appropriations Bill. The bill fully funds the Veterans Administration and increases funding for the U.S. National Guard and Reserve forces.
"America depends on our brave service members for everything from the War on Terror to helping recover from disasters here at home," Sen. Landrieu said. "We must do everything in our power to ensure a strong quality of life for every one of our men and women in uniform. We must also ensure that they are treated well when they return home from duty.
"This bill provides necessary funding for important military construction projects and will fully fund the Veterans Administration so that our veterans have the healthcare and other resources they need and so richly deserve when they return from the frontlines."
Sen. Landrieu was today joined by Sens. Jack Reed, D-R.I., and Patty Murray, D-Wash. The total bill, which is expected to pass today, provides $109.2 billion, $4 billion more than President Bush requested and nearly $10 more than last year's bill. It provides $87.5 billion for the VA and $21.6 billion for military construction to maintain and improve bases, including $930 million for National Guard and Reserve military construction projects. The bill also provides $250 million for State War Veterans Homes of which there are five in Louisiana.
Sen. Landrieu secured $17.7 million in the bill for three Louisiana projects that will:
* Expand vehicle storage at the Air Support Operations Squadron facility at Camp Beauregard to protect its Humvee fleet;
* Expand the Child Care Facility at Fort Polk to serve the additional 1,438 soldiers and 1,600 family members that will be living on the base due to Army Transformation; and
* Build a Mountain Division Headquarters at Ft. Polk for the 4th/10th Brigade, which has more than 3,200 soldiers.
Landrieu's Work to Save the ASV
In yesterday's USA Today, a front page story spotlighted Sen. Landrieu's efforts to save the Armored Security Vehicle (ASV), which the paper calls "one of the safest vehicles in Iraq." These vehicles, built at Textron Marine and Land Systems in East New Orleans and Slidell, La, help protect the U.S. Army Military Police in Iraq from explosives and grenades. The program was scheduled for cancellation in 2002.
"The ASV offers better protection than an armored Humvee and more maneuverability than an MRAP," USA Today story said. "But just a few months into the war, the Army decided to stop buying them."
Sen. Landrieu told USA Today about the 2004 administration budget that had no ASV funding. "They send me an executive budget with this zeroed out," she told reporter Blake Morrison. "I hit the roof."
Landrieu provisions in subsequent Defense Appropriations bills have saved the program. Through her provisions, Congress has added more than $700 million for the ASV since 2002. Last year, the Army restored full funding for the vehicle.
"My sorrow is that it took an inordinate number of deaths of soldiers ... to make the Pentagon realize we needed to get away from Humvees," Sen. Landrieu told USA Today. The paper focused on Sen. Landrieu's efforts as one of six key members of Congress who "have injected into the procurement of equipment to protect U.S. troops in Iraq from improvised explosive devices (IEDs)."