New Mexico has a unique role in our nation’s security and defense. Our state is home to two national labs, three military bases, an Army testing range, and many defense industry employers. One of my main goals in Washington has been to make sure that these facilities receive what they need to carry out their national security missions.To which a grateful Nation may say nothing but "Hallelulia"!!!
I am pleased to report that last week, the Senate and House passed the final fiscal year 2009 Defense Authorization Bill, which sets spending levels at New Mexico's military installations and the state's two national laboratories.
Sandia and Los Alamos national labs are critical not only to our national security, but because of the important basic scientific research they do on behalf of the country. The Department of Energy’s combined budget for our labs is more than $4 billion, which is equivalent to the budget for the state of New Mexico. This funding is used to support the labs' extremely critical role in safeguarding and ensuring the reliability of the nation’s nuclear deterrent. But it is also used to perform valuable cutting edge science for the country in the areas of defense, science and technology, engineering, as well as energy and the environment.
Our labs also have an important economic impact on New Mexico. Sandia National Laboratories and Los Alamos National Laboratories combined employ roughly 18,000 New Mexicans. Those individuals are paid competitive wages which are in turn injected into the state’s economy.
New Mexico also houses three Air Force bases, Kirtland, Cannon and Holloman as well as White Sands Missile Range. In addition to playing a key role in protecting our nation and its interests, these facilities also employ large numbers of New Mexicans and other personnel who contribute to our economy. A few years ago, the Pentagon went through a Base Realignment and Closer procedure that threatened Cannon Air Force Base. But the congressional delegation was able to work together to find Cannon a great new mission – the new home of a second base for the Air Force Special Operations Command. This bill will help support the transition to that new mission and keep all of our bases strong now and into the future.
To that end, the bill authorizes funding that will ensure Holloman Air Force Base receives the new F-22A Raptor in a timely fashion, replaces an aging fuel storage tank at Kirtland Air Force Base, provides millions of dollars for flight and flight maintenance programs at Cannon, and increases funding authorized for the high energy test facility at White Sands Missile Range.
Along with supporting our state’s national security efforts, the bill would take other important steps to support our state’s military personnel and their families. For example, it provides for a 3.9 percent military pay raise and authorizes $26 billion for the Defense Health Program that supports worldwide medical and dental services to the active forces and other eligible beneficiaries. Another provision funds research to counter the threat of Improvised Explosive Devices (IED), which have killed thousands of our soldiers in Iraq. Also, a provision I cosponsored requires the continued implementation of the Wounded Warriors Act.
Congress also has enacted corresponding legislation that atually funds our military bases for a full year and funds our state’s laboratories for the first six months of fiscal year 2009. A final spending bill for the labs and other federal initiatives will be enacted next year.
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