Senator's Measures Enhance Troop Readiness, Energy Efficiency and Economic Development Initiatives
Senator Mark Pryor today said legislation headed to the President includes measures he proposed to enhance troop readiness and equipment, benefit defense-impacted communities, and expedite the military's use of renewable fuels in its fleet.
Pryor said the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010 authorizes $680.2 billion in discretionary budget authority for defense programs next year and makes several improvements to support critical national security priorities. He commended efforts to provide fair compensation and first rate health care to active duty, the National Guard and Reserves, and their families in addition to ensuring our troops have the resources, training, technology and equipment to succeed in combat and stability operations. Additionally, Pryor said the bill commits more resources to counterinsurgency operations and efforts to counter nontraditional threats, such as terrorism and weapons of mass destruction.
Retiring Certain C-130Es and Waiving the Storage Requirement
Pryor said he's pleased the conference committee included his amendment to waive stringent storage requirements for selected C-130E aircraft and retire them. He said these aircraft had been a workhorse for years, providing a significant contribution to combat operations overseas. Today, however, 24 C130Eshave an aging airframe, including center wing cracks, deteriorating outer wing panels and old hydraulic lines, which hinders their ability to effectively perform the airlift mission. Additionally, Type 1000 storage status requires these aircraft to be fully maintained, receiving regular inspections and preventing its parts from being used to support C-130s at full mission capability. The Air Force would have to spend approximately $30-$35 million per aircraft to make the C-130Es fully operational.
"The C-130E has served the Air Force well for many years, but the reality is that these aging planes are slowly losing their effectiveness for combat training or operations. Retiring selected C-130E would eliminate expensive storage requirements and allow the Air Force to focus its attention and resources on other aircrafts," Pryor said.
Facilitating a Camp Robinson Land Exchange
Pryor said his amendment to facilitate a 40.5-acre land exchange between the City of North Little Rock and Camp Robinson remains in the final bill. The measure waives a 1950 statute, which requires the Arkansas National Guard to relinquish land to the federal government if it is not needed for training. This waiver enables the Guard to gain land more conducive for training exercises in exchange for terrain it considers too rugged, inaccessible and unsecure. The City of Little Rock plans to use the land for economic development purposes.
"This land exchange is a great example of how military bases and the surrounding communities can work together for mutual benefit," Pryor said. "It allows the Arkansas National Guard to improve its training capabilities and provides the City of North Little Rock a new opportunity to spur economic development in the area. This agreement is an unequivocal win for central Arkansas."
In 2005, Pryor secured a similar waiver facilitating a 325-acre land exchange to allow Camp Robinson to construct an aviation support facility and maintain a clear flight path for landing. The provision saved taxpayers $6 million that would have otherwise been paid to a landowner to cover the cost of his land.
Allowing Communities to Recover from Base Closures
Pryor said bureaucracy too often stands in the way of economic development for hundreds of communities who have experienced base closures. He joined forces with Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME) to ensure that economic development authorities who wish to obtain surplus military property through an economic development conveyance (EDC) at cost or no-cost could receive equal consideration from the military as other methods of property disposal. In giving equal consideration to EDCs, the Department of Defense (DoD) is directed to consider the economic climate of the local community. Methods that currently receive priority consideration include public benefit transfers, negotiated sales and other public sales.
Pryor said the Red River Redevelopment Authority (RRRA) has been unable to obtain an EDC to redevelop and reinvigorate the area at and around the Lone Star Army Ammunition Plant in Texarkana, TX. Military officials have informed the RRRA they are instead seeking fair market value for the property, an approach that has left communities abandoned and is costing taxpayers millions in property management responsibilities.
"Base closures can be crippling to a community, and hoarding the land adds insult to injury," Pryor said. "My amendment enables communities to foster new economic development opportunities while also saving taxpayers millions of dollars," Pryor said.
Beginning the Military's Transition to Renewable Fuels
Pryor said there are many opportunities for the Department of Defense to take advantage of renewable fuels to increase the energy efficiency of its ground, aviation, and maritime fleets. Under language offered by Pryor, DoD will submit a report to Congress by February 2010 examining the use and potential use of renewable fuels in meeting energy-efficient requirements. The report will examine how DoD could incorporate a wide array of domestically produced renewable fuels, from biodiesel to algae-based and biomass-derived fuels. It will also consider the establishment of a renewable fuel commodity class that is distinct from petroleum-based products.
"As the biggest energy user in the U.S., DoD can also be the biggest leader in energy efficiency. In doing so, this transition will spur opportunities in the renewable energy sector and create jobs and economic development," Pryor said.
Streamlining Reporting Requirements on Nanotechnology Research
The legislation also includes a measure by Pryor that would streamline reporting requirements by the Department of Defense (DoD) on its nanotechnology research and development programs. Currently, DoD submits a bi-annual report on its nanotechnology program to Congress in addition to reports submitted to the National Nanotechnology Coordination Office and the Office of Management and Budget. The Pryor amendment would eliminate the bi-annual report to Congress.
The National Nanotechnology Initiative's (NNI) proposed budget for FY10 is $1.64 billion, which brings the cumulative investment to nearly $12 billion since the inception of the NNI.
"Nanotechnology is an essential aspect of our national security, and advancements in this field are necessary for America to remain competitive on the world stage," Pryor said. "It is important to ensure that taxpayer dollars are spent appropriately, however, superfluous reporting requirements can stifle productivity instead of encouraging it. This measure allows the DoD's nanotechnology program to spend more time on groundbreaking research and less time on redundant paperwork," Pryor said.