FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, June 22, 2006
BINGAMAN: DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION BILL CLEARS SENATE
BILL SUPPORTS NEW MEXICO MILITARY EFFORTS & DOE LABORATORIES
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman today said he is pleased the Senate has passed a key spending bill that supports military construction projects in New Mexico, important veterans health care programs, essential work performed at the national laboratories, and for the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant.
The Senate today approved the fiscal year 2007 Defense Authorization Bill, which authorizes $5 million Bingaman supports for New Mexico Tech to complete development of the Playas Training Complex Command and Control Network Design and Development project. Playas is a complex for military and homeland security training located in southeastern New Mexico.
It also authorizes $11.4 million for a Pararescue Jumper/Combat Rescue Officer Rescue and Recovering Training Center at Kirtland Air Force Base. And it authorizes the spending of $20 million of Base Closure and Realignment Commission funds to consolidate multiple reservist facilities in Albuquerque into a single new building. The move will save the Pentagon funding over time.
The authorization bill also fully funds a program that supports Starfire – a directed energy research project at Kirtland.
“New Mexico’s military installations help play a key role in our national defense and it’s important that they are properly maintained and equipped. I am pleased this bill authorizes funding for important military initiatives,” Bingaman said.
Bingaman said that the bill not only repeals the reduction of Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA) survivor benefits from the Survivor Benefit Plan annuity, but it changes the effective date of paid-up coverage to 2006. It also recommends no increase in TRICARE enrollment fees.
The bill also includes a “Senate of the Senate Resolution” Bingaman wrote that President Bush to appoint a permanent Director of Operational Test and Evaluation at the Department of Defense. The current director is serving on an acting basis. A permanent appointment would help ensure troop safety and weapon effectiveness.
The bill also includes the following:
· A report on actions to reduce the consumption of petroleum-based fuels by the Department of Defense
· A provision that requires consideration of the utilization of fuel cells as back-up power systems in DOD operations
The Defense Authorization Bill also funds work at the national laboratories. It contains $6.48 billion for weapons stockpile stewardship programs and $1.7 billion for nonproliferation programs to stem the spread of loose nuclear material and detect clandestine weapons of mass destruction programs.
Highlights for other lab funds are as follows:
Los Alamos National Laboratory
· $14.8 million for radioactive liquid waste treatment facility which will upgrade a 40-year old system which treats and separates radioactive waste from over 50 facilities at LANL.
· $112 million for the Chemistry, Metallurgy Research Facility Replacement project, which replaces a 1950 era materials laboratory for the study of plutonium and essential to maintaining the scientific basis for the stockpile.
· Bingaman is disappointed the measure does not cover the $90 million shortfall soil and water remediation for Los Alamos needs to meet milestones on the consent order with New Mexico Environment Department. He will work to gain support for those funds.
Sandia National Laboratories
· $14 million to replace and upgrade aging ventilation systems.
Waste Isolation Pilot Plant
· $213 million for operations.
Additionally, Bingaman and Senator’s Domenici, Alexander and Mikulski also successfully obtained an additional $3 million in the bill for early career grants to fund up to 30 new assistant professors at universities to conduct defense related basic research consistent with the Protecting America’s Competitive Edge or PACE Act. These grants help new professors gain a toehold in the Department of Defense research community.
Finally, the bill also extends the Land Transfer Act for the San Idefonso Pueblo and Los Alamos County to November 26, 2012.