Congressman Tim Griffin (AR-02) issued the following statement after supporting House passage of the Fiscal Year 2013 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs (VA) Appropriations Act (H.R. 5854):
"This critical legislation provides funding for essential services and facilities for America's servicemembers, military families and veterans. Locally, that means a new C-130 maintenance hangar and C-130 simulator complex for Little Rock Air Force Base (LRAFB), and a new Army National Guard facility in Searcy. Overall, this legislation maintains current spending levels while at the same time increasing the VA's share of funding by $2.3 billion compared to last year."
H.R. 5854 is an annual appropriations bill that provides funding for constructing housing for our military families, schools for their children and essential care for veterans.
Here is a summary of the Arkansas-specific provisions in H.R. 5854:
C-130J Fuel Systems Maintenance Hangar -- $26 million
This facility will support all phases of aircraft maintenance, such as fuel systems maintenance, refurbishment, and airframe maintenance. By 2015, LRAFB is scheduled to have of 98 C-130 aircraft. Without this hangar, the 55-year old C-130 nose docks will continue to deteriorate, be a costly energy drain for the base and prevent LRAFB from completing its required mission.
C-130J Flight Simulator Addition -- $4.178 million
This facility will house aircraft flight simulators and other special training devices. It includes space for administration and records, classrooms, trainer maintenance, and storage. LRAFB currently provides flight simulator training in two separate facilities. C-130J simulator training is currently operating near capacity, and the requirement for this training continues to grow rapidly with C-130J production. Without a facility to house the additional C-130J flight simulator planned for LRAFB in FY13, the base will not be able to meet its pilot training requirements in the future.
Army National Guard Searcy Field Maintenance Shop -- $6.8 million
This new 22,225 square foot facility will house all elements of the Searcy Field Maintenance Shop of the Arkansas Army National Guard, allowing them to maintain and issue equipment for peacetime training and ensure the equipment is prepared for mobilization. According to the Army National Guard, the current facility is in poor condition, does not meet current building criteria and is 25 percent the size authorized to support its mission.
In addition, H.R. 5854 includes a total of $135.4 billion in both discretionary and mandatory funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs. Discretionary funding equals $60.7 billion, which is $2.3 billion above last year's level. The bill provides $41.4 billion for VA medical services, including: $6.2 billion for mental health care services; $73 million for suicide prevention; $220 million for traumatic brain injury treatment; $5.8 billion in homeless veterans treatment, services, housing and job training; and $250 million in rural health initiatives. It also includes stricter reporting and oversight requirements in order to protect U.S. taxpayer dollars.