U.S. Senator Mary L. Landrieu, D-La., "Military Mary," announced today that she has secured language urging the Air Force to prioritize projects to improve quality of life efforts on and around installations, particularly those supporting major commands. This is particularly important for Barksdale Air Force Base, which has seen an influx of nearly 1,000 airmen and their families since 2008. Sen. Landrieu has been a fierce proponent of providing our military families with high quality of life, including excellent educational opportunities.
This language -- along with other provisions to support our veterans and military families ¬-- was included during a markup by the Senate Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Subcommittee of the fiscal year 2013 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs appropriations bill. The legislation also includes $11.7 million for the Barksdale pumping station and $7.187 million for Belle Chasse Naval Air Station, Joint Reserve Base to build additional housing for service members on temporary duty. The bill now moves to the full Senate Appropriations Committee for its review later this week.
"Our brave service men and women make incredible sacrifices to protect our nation and our freedom -- they deserve the highest quality of life possible. Barksdale Air Force Base is a national leader on this issue, and is doing excellent work to provide the best possible education and housing opportunities for our military families," Sen. Landrieu said. "This legislation will help prioritize the importance of quality of life issues for military families both in Barksdale and throughout the country."
Sen. Landrieu also secured the following provisions in the fiscal year 2013 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs appropriations bill that will:
Encourage the Air Force to accelerate construction of aerospace control alert facilities:
Aerospace Control Alert facilities contribute to the safety and security of our nation. Air Force squadrons sit alert 24 hours, seven days a week on the ground, standing by to provide protection to our nation's critical infrastructure. Since September 2001 the Air Alert Wing at Naval Air Station Join Reserve Base in New Orleans has provided this armed fighter aircraft presence for the Gulf coast. Today's legislation encourages the Air Force to accelerate to FY 2013 the planned construction of all alert facilities that are currently comprised of mobile and modular building units.
Support the expansion of the National Guard Region Training Institute in Camp Minden:
Across the country, the Army is moving to a force-wide training model that incorporates multiple Regional Training Institutes (RTI) throughout the country. For example, the Louisiana National Guard Regional Training Institute in Camp Minden is currently teaching soldiers from throughout the country. The proposed expansion of the Camp Minden RTI will help reduce an Army-wide backlog of thousands of soldiers requiring Non-commissioned Officer Education training. Today's legislation encourages the Army to continue expansion and development of National Guard training facilities that service active duty, guard and reserve members. According to the Senator's provision, priority should be given to projects that have the first Phase of construction completed.
Encourage infrastructure consolidation for efficiency:
In recent years, the Air Force has completed substantial upgrades to the communications infrastructure at Barksdale. However, this infrastructure is currently housed in five separate locations that are more than 50 years old and do not meet anti-terrorism/force protection requirements, opening them up to unnecessary risk. The proposed new 30,533 square foot facility will centralize operations, increasing efficiency, security and effectiveness. Today's legislation encourages the Air Force to continue its efforts to consolidate infrastructure and commands on its installations, including but not limited to communications, civil engineering and administration facilities.
Encourage the Department of Veterans Affairs to improve response to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI):
As we drawdown from Iraq and Afghanistan the number of veterans is increasing. Those veterans are regularly diagnosed with mental health injuries that lead to chronic conditions that have been pared with an increase the likelihood of becoming homeless. The Department of Veterans Affairs has targeted the eradication of homelessness as a priority. In order to reach the stated goal in the current budget climate, the Department must continue to look for unique and multifaceted approaches to the problem. Today's legislation strongly encourages the Department to work with community-based and intermediary organizations to develop pilot programs to help address these issues.