Alaska Delegation Responds to President Obama's Fiscal Year 2010 Budget

Washington, DC – The Alaska Congressional Delegation today made the following comments regarding President Obama’s proposed budget for the fiscal year that begins October 1. Obama’s Fiscal Year 2010 budget would cut missile defense funding by 35 percent, and slash spending for the Denali Commission and the Village Safe Water program.
U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said:
“The President’s budget would cancel construction of missile field 2 at Fort Greely and freeze the number of missile interceptors at the number currently located on the base. America’s military leaders firmly believed that if it were necessary to use our missile defense capabilities at Fort Greely to stop an incoming missile from North Korea, our interceptors would have done the job. Today, the Defense Department said it wants to study the merits of ground based missile defense before it commits to an expansion at Fort Greely. This is absolutely the wrong message to send to our adversaries. Moreover, the U.S. has already invested substantial amounts of money in the purchase of additional interceptor missiles and the construction of the second missile site. Are these dollars to be lost to our national security?
“I am also deeply disappointed that the administration has proposed cuts to the Village Safe Water program. These funds are used to improve the Third World sanitation conditions that plague rural Alaska, and eliminate dependence on the honey bucket. The Bush administration proposed similar cuts in 2005, which were reversed after former EPA Administrator Steve Johnson visited the Yukon-Kuskowim Delta and saw for himself the desperate sanitation conditions in the Yupik villages. It’s troubling that the new administration would derail the single program most important to preventing disease in our Native villages.
“The Denali Commission was created to improve economic opportunities for people in Alaska’s Native villages by constructing infrastructure, providing job training and finding alternatives to the desperately high cost of energy. While the President’s budget keeps the Denali Commission alive, it cuts to the bone the commission’s ability to continue its vitally needed role.  It eliminates funding for job training in parts of Alaska which have the highest levels of poverty of any region in the United States; it eliminates funding to construct health clinics at the village level; it eliminates funding to clean up waste dumps that threaten to contaminate village water supplies, and it eliminates funding to reduce the high cost of energy in our native villages. Funding for the commission’s rural transportation system is also cut. For Alaska’s Native people, these unwelcome changes are a nightmare, not changes that we can believe in.” 
 U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, said:
 “Across our state and nation, Americans have been forced to tighten their belts and eliminate unnecessary spending. I’m pleased President Obama proposes to do the same with the federal budget – there is much that can be cut.
“Unfortunately, some of the cuts proposed, which would affect vital Alaska programs, show the lack of understanding federal budget-writers have about our state and its needs. It simply makes no sense to cut $20 million for the Denali Commission, which would eliminate initiatives for rural safe water and affordable energy. Another $3 million in job training for rural Alaskans is proposed for cuts at a time when Alaska is suffering from some of its worst unemployment in years.
“At a time when North Korea continues to launch missiles capable of reaching American soil, cutting back America’s ground-based missile defense program based at Fort Greely is ill-advised at best. The reduction of $807 million nationwide for the ground-based missile defense program and associated Multiple Kill Vehicle Program is unacceptable.
“Another serious glitch in the budget is the misdirection of $90 million in the Pacific Coast Salmon Recovery Fund, which should go to western tribes and states, including Alaska, to conserve and recover Pacific salmon and their habitat. Instead, the budget directs this funding for nationwide Endangered Species Act programs. Salmon enhancement must have this funding.
“While the Obama budget contains some bad news for Alaska, there is also a lot of good news in it. The President’s budget means tax cuts for 300,000 Alaska families, nearly $100 million in new funding for Pell grants to help families pay for college and a pay raise for 13,700 men and women serving in our Armed Forces.
“The President also proposes a significant increase in funding for military construction at Alaska’s bases, including nearly $200 million at Fort Wainwright, $51 million at Fort Richardson and $40 million at Elmendorf Air Force Base. Overall, Alaska bases are in line for $318 million in new funding, under President Obama’s budget proposal.
“Over coming months, I’ll be working with the Obama administration and my colleagues in Congress to review the entire federal budget proposal and especially reductions that would affect Alaska and make sure each of them is justified or reversed when they don’t make sense.”
U.S. Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, said:
“I appreciate the President’s attempts at cutting the budget, as half-hearted as they might be. But cutting it by less than a half percent, and using essential projects to do so, is counter-productive.  The President’s budget would still add a net $1.4 trillion in entitlement spending over the next 10 years, so at this point it all appears to just be political posturing for the media.
 “Cuts definitely need to be made to the budget, but not to programs like job training in Alaska (through the Denali Commission), the Denali Access System, high energy cost grants, or missile defense.  North Korea announced they are continuing nuclear and missile testing and Iran continues with their nuclear program, but through this budget proposal, the President wants to stop production of least 14 interceptors and their placement at Ft. Greely?  They want to cut $310 million in health care facilities and construction, but promise to provide better health care for all Americans?  How are they going to do that without facilities? 
“I hope Alaskans and all Americans are as outraged at that as I am.  I want to reassure Alaskans that these are just proposals and not the law and I will continue to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to ensure that our great state is taken care of.  The Administration is playing politics with the budget by cutting small items they think they can get away with as opposed to the larger social programs they are trying to force upon us. If the President was serious about cutting the budget, he’d start by cutting down on entitlement spending, which is where the big money lies.”