Senator Stevens Protects Alaska Native-owned Businesses
Native American Contractors Association Lauds Senator's Work on Bill
The U.S. House of Representatives today passed the fiscal year 2009 Defense Authorization Act which contains several key provisions championed by Senator Ted Stevens (R-Alaska). At the request of Senator Stevens, a provision harmful to Alaska Native Corporations (ANCs) was removed from the bill.
"This represents a big victory for Native Alaskan small businesses," said Alaskan Alma Upicksoun, who is on the Native American Contractors Association's board of directors. "A big thanks again to Senator Stevens and his staff for their dogged and positive efforts on behalf of all of us."
"I am proud to have joined a strong coalition of Native American advocates in stopping another attack on 8(a) firms," said Senator Stevens. "Participation in this program has been invaluable to our ANCs and I am relieved we have once again been successful in defending it."
The original version of the House Defense Authorization bill contained a provision, section 4101 of Title 4, that would require some government agencies to minimize awarding of contracts to ANCs, Native Hawaiian Organizations, and Indian tribes under the Small Business Administration's 8(a) program. While some small businesses would have been exempt from this reduction in the awarding of contracts, ANCs would have received no such exemption.
"If passed, Section 4101 would have significantly limited the ability of ANCs to obtain government contracts. The 8(a) program is critical to Alaska Native businesses, which generate revenues, jobs, and economic growth for their respective communities that already suffer from high rates of unemployment and poverty," added Senator Stevens.
During the 1980's and 1990's Senator Stevens helped craft the series of legislative initiatives that have allowed ANCs to participate in the SBA 8(a) program and effectively pursue government contracts. In recent years, Senator Stevens has successfully worked to defend special provisions designed to assist Native American firms and their communities.
Military Construction in Bethel
Other benefits for Alaska in the bill include a $16 million authorization to construct a new National Guard Readiness Center in Bethel. This would replace a 1962 facility that cannot meet today's readiness, recruitment, and retention standards. It would serve as home for the Battlefield Surveillance Brigade and elements of the 207th Aviation Brigade of the Alaska Army National Guard throughout Northwestern and Western Alaska.
The State of Alaska has already spent $2.4 million on site inspection, preparation, and design of this facility. This additional federal funding will complete the construction of this long-overdue project.
Increased Pay and Health Benefits for the Troops
The bill contains an across-the-board 3.9 percent pay raise for all service members, which helps ensure that service members receive fair compensation while serving our country. This would reduce the gap in pay increases between the uniformed services and the private sector to 2.9 percent overall.
The legislation would also extend the prohibitions on increased premiums and co-pays for TRICARE recipients and increased user fees for the TRICARE retail pharmacy program. This will save service members and their families $1.2 billion in healthcare costs. By extending the prohibitions, Congress would reject the Department of Defense plan of controlling cost growth by significantly raising fees in order to discourage beneficiaries from participation in TRICARE.