Murkowski: Military Construction, VA Approps Bill Spotlights Alaskan Prominence, Priorities
F-35 Simulator, Construction, Alaska Veteran Care Improvements in Funding Bill
Senator Lisa Murkowski today voted for the 2016 Military Construction/Veterans Affairs appropriations bill as it successfully passed out of the full Appropriations Committee. The bill, which allocates federal resources to construction and upkeep efforts at military installations across the country as well as the nationwide VA system, contains a number of priorities advocated by Murkowski for Alaska in the subcommittee negotiations.
“Alaska is the tip of the spear as we face troubling behavior from nations to the west and other regions of the world, and I commend my colleagues on the Appropriations Committee for backing our efforts with funding in the nation’s defense,” said Senator Murkowski. “But just as critically as how we handle the future of our military is how we care for those who have served, and this bill includes some vital provisions for Alaska’s veteran community to assure they get high-quality care as close to home as possible.”
Alaska priorities included in the bill:
- Alaska Military Construction– $79.2 million has been appropriated for Alaskan military projects:
- $37M for the F-35 simulator building at Eielson;
- $34M for the Eielson Central Heat and Power Plant, and
- $7.8M for a running track at Fort Greely
Note: Senator Murkowski was successful along with the Alaska Delegation in convince the U.S. Air Force to name Eielson Air Force Base as the only alternative for siting two squadrons of F-35s.
- Reforming Alaska’s VA System – The bill included a Murkowski provision directing the VA to consider contracting out community based outpatient clinics (CBOCs) it cannot staff to Native health or community health centers – specifying the Wasilla and Fairbanks facilities as centers to improve. Murkowski has consistently pressed the VA for transparency and improvements in delivering care for Alaskans. For example, the Alaska VA partnership with the Southcentral Foundation has expedited care for hundreds of veterans who otherwise would have faced long delays in getting appointments.
- “Care Close to Home” VA/Native Health Center Partnership – The bill continues the groundbreaking partnership between the VA and the Alaska Native health system that Murkowski advocated for as early as 2007, where veterans in rural Alaska who live closer to a Native health care center can acquire care there.
- Consistent Care for Combat Stress: Once soldiers leave active duty and begin receiving VA care, their medications and treatment for post-traumatic stress are frequently discontinued or altered, despite much time and effort by doctors to determine these to be the best solution. Senator Murkowski added a provision to have the VA examine this bureaucratic problem and report back to the Defense Committees how the treatment differs and what improvements can be made.
- Clear Power Plant – The bill also contains a provision added by Senator Murkowski to direct the U.S. Air Force to refrain from decommissioning the Clear combined heat and power plant until the long-range discrimination radar siting decision is made, and power requirements are examined.
(Missile Defense Agency head tells Murkowski LRDR is “vital” to nation’s defense – March 2015)