Senate Armed Services Committee Approves ’09 Defense Bill with Important Mississippi Projects

Wicker Says Legislation Protects Shipyard Jobs in Pascagoula, Approves Important Military Projects Across the State

May 2, 2008

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, today announced several Mississippi defense-related projects were approved when the committee unanimously passed the National Defense Authorization bill for Fiscal Year 2009.  The bill authorizes funding for the Department of Defense and the national security programs of the Department of Energy.

“Mississippians play a significant role in helping defend our country,” Sen. Wicker said.  “In the interest of our state and for the good of our military, I am glad I was able to work with my colleagues on the committee to ensure these important Mississippi projects were included in the legislation.  As we work towards a final version of this bill, I will strive to ensure these projects remain intact.”

Senator Wicker was successful in securing support for $273 million in advance procurement money for an amphibious ship used to transport Marines, known as an “LPD.”  LPD funding was the Marines’ top unfunded priority this year and number two on the Navy’s unfunded list.  This project will prevent the closing of a major ship construction line on the Gulf Coast.

Senator Wicker also cosponsored an amendment requiring the government of Iraq to fund their reconstruction and infrastructure projects.  Under the plan, Iraq also would have to pay to train and equip its security forces and provide the salaries of its security groups.  In addition, the administration would have to negotiate cost-sharing agreements for U.S.-Iraqi joint military operations. 

“The government of Iraq has made great progress in taking financial responsibility for their own country.  This amendment continues this progress and will help relieve the financial burden of the United States,” Wicker said.

Wicker was also successful in adding an amendment to the bill that will help the Department of Defense and Veterans Affairs to develop and implement interoperable electronic databases and medical records.  This initiative will improve the speed and accuracy in which military members are provided medical care as they transition between the Defense Department medical system and the Veterans’ Affairs system. 

The legislation provides a 3.9 percent across-the-board pay increase for all military personnel, and enhances dental and medical benefits for the members of the National Guard and Reserves.  Additionally, it authorizes the Defense Department’s Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder/Traumatic Brain Injury (PTSD/TBI) Center of Excellence to conduct pilot programs to improve treatment and care for soldiers. 

Senator Wicker secured support in the legislation for these additional projects throughout Mississippi:

  • $224.5 million for 36 additional Light Utility Helicopter (LUH) aircraft, which are built at a production facility in Columbus
  • $3.4 million to relocate an ammunitions storage complex in Gulfport
  • $3.8 million to improve the fitness center at Naval Air Station in Meridian
  • $5 million to construct an indoor firing range at Keesler Air Force Base
  • $5.4 million to construct a battalion maintenance facility and equipment yard at the Naval
  • Construction Battalion Center in Gulfport
  • $8.1 million for a new child development center at Columbus Air Force Base
  • $6.9 million for the construction of a new Naval Construction Regiment headquarter facility at Naval
  • Construction Battalion Center in Gulfport