U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today said that he voted against the Consolidated Appropriations bill because Congress has not fulfilled its primary obligation to oversee federal spending.
“I’m voting against this bill because the appropriations process has completely broken down,” Alexander said. “The primary responsibility of the Congress is to appropriate money to fund the government, but not one single appropriations bill was enacted by the October 1st deadline, resulting in this inefficient, stop-gap Continuing Resolution that wastes billions of dollars. I’m glad to see that this bill contains language to lift the bans on American oil exploration and support worthy projects in Tennessee, but that’s no excuse to vote for a bill that is the result of this broken process.”
Alexander said that the legislation included language to lift bans on offshore oil exploration and oil shale development in Western states that would decrease dependence on foreign oil and increase American energy.
Alexander noted that the Consolidated Appropriations bill (H.R. 2638) includes three separate appropriations measures with funding through the end of Fiscal Year 2009 – the Defense Appropriations bill, the Homeland Security Appropriations bill, and the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations bill – that each include funding for several projects in Tennessee. For federal departments and agencies not covered by those three measures, the Consolidated Appropriations bill also includes a Continuing Resolution (CR) to fund the rest of the government through March 6, 2009.
Key Tennessee projects funded in the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations bill include:
• $10 million for the School-Aged Services Center at Fort Campbell. This facility will provide before and after school care for children of our military families during the duty day. This facility supports troop readiness by reducing lost duty time due to conflict between parent responsibilities and unit mission requirements. At present, Fort Campbell’s requirement is being met by sharing space in a Youth Center and using gyms and cafeterias of five elementary schools after school has been dismissed.
• $8 million to help replace squadron operations and relocate security perimeter for the Tennessee Air National Guard at McGhee Tyson Airport in Knoxville. Squadron operations serve as the United States Air Force (USAF) command post and base operations center for intelligence briefings/debriefings, standardization and evaluation of missions, flight planning, and unit administration. Funding will be used to relocate the security perimeter and will allow the base to meet current AT/FP (Antiterrorism/Force Protection) standards.
• $10.3 million for a readiness center for the Tennessee National Guard in Tullahoma. The current facility, constructed in 1954, has significant quality-of-life, health and safety issues, and is one-third the authorized square footage for mission requirements. The new readiness center will provide National Guard units with a facility that will greatly enhance daily administrative, operational and logistical support.
• $630,000 for a Chapel Center at Fort Campbell. Currently, Fort Campbell only has one-third the number of chapels they require and three of the current chapels are 65-year-old temporary wooden buildings. The new chapel facility would help support the 72 chaplains who perform 17 religious services weekly in conjunction with other regular weekly programs.
• In addition, $170.5 million was included in the bill for Fort Campbell and the Army Reserves:
o $47 million for the Vehicle Maintenance Facility (UEx) at Fort Campbell
o $37 million for the Battalion Operations Complex for the 5th Special Forces Group at Fort Campbell
o $24 million for the Medical/Dental Clinic on base at Fort Campbell
o $21.4 million for a new elementary school at Fort Campbell
o $15.5 million for the Training Support Center at Fort Campbell
o $15 million for the Tactical Equipment Shop at Fort Campbell
o $10.6 million for the Army Reserve Center in Chattanooga
Key Tennessee projects funded in the Defense Appropriations bill include:
• $2.5 million for the Injury Prevention and Performance Enhancement Research Initiative for the 101st Airborne at Fort Campbell. This initiative is developing training and rehabilitation protocols to reduce the number of musculoskeletal injuries and decrease the rehabilitation time for such injuries for the 101st Airborne.
• $2.4 million for AB-FIST Gunnery Trainers for the Tennessee National Guard. These funds will support procurement and complete funding for these trainers that are necessary to maintain combat readiness.
• $8 million for the Air Force Minority Leaders Program. Tennessee State University is part of a university led consortium to advance materials and sensor technology development for the Air Force.
• $4 million for the Appalachia High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Program of the Tennessee National Guard. Tennessee ranks among the top marijuana and methamphetamine producing states in the nation, and the Tennessee Army National Guard has successfully stopped production in many areas of rural Appalachia. These funds will expand eradication efforts and sustain ongoing enforcement activities.
• 500,000 for the Deployable, Mobile Digital Target System for Armor and Infantry for the Tennessee National Guard. This funding will increase the training capability of armor unit crews so they will be able to perform critical skills required in combat.
• $1 million for the Engagement Skill Trainer 2000 for the Tennessee National Guard. This funding will support procurement of 2 additional units and supports marksmanship and judgmental use of force training.
• $8 million for HH-60A to HH-60L Helicopter Upgrades for the Tennessee National Guard. This funding will increase the armor floor plating and provide the needed upgrades that are required for actual deployment missions.
• $1.2 million for Instrumentation for Urban Assault Course for the Tennessee National Guard in Tullahoma. The Guard operates an urban assault course to familiarize war fighters with multiple tactical situations and urban warfare scenarios. This funding will provide instrumentation that will allow for training that is consistent with actual urban battlefield combat prior to redeployment.
• $2 million for Kinetic Energy Enhanced Lethality and Protection Materials Research. The Department of Defense is actively reviewing replacement materials for depleted uranium (DU) because of concerns of radioactivity and toxicity. This research looks at ways to translate the leading approaches and studies into actual testing and evaluation in order to determine whether tungsten can be a viable alternative, should DU be removed from service.
• $5.4 million for the Army to purchase Lightweight Maintenance Enclosures for support to vehicle maintenance activities in theatre operations.
• $3 million for M1 Abrams Mobile Conduct of Fire Trainers Upgrades for the Tennessee National Guard. These tank trainer upgrades will be used to train the gunnery proficiency of crews so they will be able to perform critical skills required in combat.
One Tennessee project was included in the Homeland Security Appropriations bill:
• $27 million for the Southeast Regional Research Initiative at Oak Ridge National Laboratory to help utilize university research in the southeast region to meet Homeland Security needs.
The Consolidated Security, Disaster Assistance, and Continuing Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2009 (H.R. 2638) passed the Senate by a vote of 78 to 12.