United States Senator Mary L. Landrieu, D-La. today secured $99.8 million for military installations throughout Louisiana and $60 million to help finance the permanent construction of a VA hospital in New Orleans. The funding is part of the Fiscal Year 2012 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations bill that the Senate Appropriations Committee passed today. The legislation now proceeds to the full Senate for debate and passage.
Of the $99.8 million Landrieu secured for military construction, more than $70 million will support critical infrastructure investments at the Army's Fort Polk. The majority of the funding, $23 million, goes toward a brigade complex and another $9.2 million will help modernize a base fire station in dire need of renovation. Other funds will finance renovations to the fort's military working dog facility, which trains dogs that perform antidrug and terrorism sweeps across the United States.
The committee recommended that Barksdale Air Force Base receive $30 million dollars to build a consolidated mission support group complex. With the expansion of the U.S. Global Strike Command, hundreds of new family members have arrived at Barksdale AFB. The new buildings will support the influx of Airmen and their families, help them transition into the base and Bossier City community and improve base operations.
"With some of the highest deployment rates in the country, Louisiana's troops and their families are carrying a heavy load on their shoulders. When our men and women are deployed, they must have confidence that their children and spouses are well taken care of on base," Sen. Landrieu said. "This is a fiscally responsibly bill that strategically funds critical infrastructure investments that will make a huge difference in the daily lives of men and women in uniform. It also highlights the National Guard readiness training institute and other top military priorities for Louisiana."
As part of the Veterans Affairs appropriations, Sen. Landrieu secured $60 million to finance the final construction phase of a permanent, regional New Orleans VA hospital. A small outpatient clinic, in addition to local and regional civilian medical facilities, has served as the primary provider of veteran health care since Hurricane Katrina.
"We are one step closer with this funding to bringing veterans a permanent, state of the art VA hospital in New Orleans," Sen. Landrieu said. "With the United States involved in multiple overseas conflicts, the least we can do when our troops come home is to ensure that they receive the best possible medical care. The new facility will improve veterans care, cut overall costs and provide additional services not currently available to veterans in New Orleans."
In addition to the funding for Barksdale AFB and Fort Polk, Sen. Landrieu authored two provisions. The first encourages the advanced construction of an east gate at Barksdale AFB. During a visit in May, base residences shared with Sen. Landrieu how an east gate would expand access to the surrounding community, shorten school children's commute time and improve base living conditions. The second provision Sen. Landrieu authored encourages the Air Force to prioritize the renovation of a communication center, vital to the U.S. Global Strike Command. Barksdale's current communication center is inadequate for the strategic bomber and missile operations it conducts. The current center is located in an old dining facility with out-of-date wiring.
The committee also adopted a Landrieu provision directing the Army to continue funding National Guard operated regional training institutes. To ensure a professional enlisted education system, the Army must reduce the backlog of soldiers seeking non-commissioned officer leadership training.
In a landmark victory for Louisiana, Sen. Landrieu fought for policy language that supports cyber security accredited programs to help veterans transition from the battlefield to their local community. These programs promote education and job growth critical to the U.S. homeland security in the areas of cyber security, defense and computer network protection.
Overall, the legislation provides almost $142 billion in total funding for military construction, veterans affairs and related agencies. This discretionary funding is $1.25 billion below the president's budget request and $617 million lower than FY2011 funding level. Of this appropriation, $69.4 billion is mandatory funding with the remaining $72 billion in discretionary funding.