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[June 17, 2009]
Armed Services Committee Considering 2010 Defense Bill with Abercrombie Amendments; Legislation Includes $51.6 Million for Hawaii
Jun 17, 2009 (Congressional Documents and Publications/ContentWorks via COMTEX) -- Washington, D.C. -- The House Armed Services Committee continued late Wednesday night to debate the 2010 National Defense Authorization Act, which authorizes all operations of the U.S. Department of Defense and sets priorities for defense spending.
Rep. Neil Abercrombie, a senior member of the Committee and Chairman of the Air and Land Forces Subcommittee, has been successful in targeting nearly $52 million to Hawaii, including: Alternative Energy Research * $3.8 million for research into ocean thermal energy conversion; * $3 million for research into a wave powered electric grid power generating system; * $2.5 million into the development of an electric vehicle charging network; and * $3.5 million for development of a local, sustainable and renewable fuel source for the military in Hawaii. More than 90% of the military's energy fuel is now imported.
Military Construction * $850,000 for construction design of drydock facilities at Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard; * $5.4 million for construction design of the Hawaii National Guard's Joint Forces Readiness Center; and * $4 million for construction of a ground control tower at Hickam AFB.
Military Research and Testing * $3.5 million for further research, development and installation of marine mammal detection systems on Navy aircraft. These aircraft would fly over naval training areas before their use and help ships avoid harming dolphins and whales with sonar equipment; * $2.55 million in continued funding for the Marine Mammal Research program at the University of Hawaii into the effects of Navy sonar on dolphins and whales; * Five different projects totaling more than $22.5 million for defense research and development of optical communication, new sensor technologies and advanced detection systems.
"The research and testing programs bring good high-tech jobs to Hawaii businesses and institutions, and they're critical for our national defense," said Abercrombie. "They allow the military to operate more effectively and, ultimately, to keep the country safer." In a significant departure from the Pentagon's budget request, Abercrombie added $327 million in critically-needed money for the National Guard and Reserve forces to replace worn out and battle damaged equipment from repeated Iraq deployments. After two deployments, the Hawaii National Guard has been forced to leave communications and emergency gear in-country for the next unit rotating in. Concerns have been raised in several states about the Guard's ability to fully respond to natural disasters or other emergencies.
"We've had to make tough choices because the defense budget we were given to work with is not a bottomless well," said Abercrombie. "But making sure our troops in combat and our Guard units at home have what they need will always be our first priority." The funds for the Guard and Reserve equipment were freed up by a cut in "termination costs" for the Future Combat Systems (FCS), the Army's multi-billion dollar plan for a network of manned and unmanned vehicles and aircraft connected by an impenetrable communications system. After a history of delays and hundreds of millions in cost overruns, the Secretary of Defense recommended doing away with some FCS components. Abercrombie found more than $800 million in unspent FCS funds from previous years.
Abercrombie's subcommittee also recommended the development of a second, competitive engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Congress has argued for several years that manufacturing a second engine for the fighter will provide competition and ultimately save money. The full Armed Services Committee agreed.
"The F-35 will eventually comprise 90% of the country's fighter aircraft fleet, for the Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy," Abercrombie said. "We don't believe it's wise to rely completely on one type of engine, particularly when that engine has already had problems in testing." The Defense Authorization measure must still go to the House floor for a final vote. The Senate is working on its own version of the 2010 Defense Authorization, and ultimately any differences between the two must be reconciled before a final bill can go to the President.
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