Murkowski on Military Construction and VA Funding for Alaska

Murkowski’s Efforts Provide $168.9 Million Dollars for Projects at Eielson AFB

The Senate Committee on Appropriations today approved the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies (MilCon-VA) Appropriations Bill, which contains several priorities championed by U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) to support growth in Alaska’s military presence and improve health services to our veterans. The bill supports critical infrastructure for U.S. military personnel, veterans, and their families.

“This bill is critical to providing the resources that we need to grow the military’s strategic presence in Alaska. The Air Force has identified Eielson’s new F-35 mission as one of its top funding priorities and I am pleased to see that they are putting money toward that mission,” said Senator Lisa Murkowski. “Alaska remains a state with the highest per capita veteran population in the country. My priorities right now for the VA are to ensure that Alaska’s VA health facilities are fully staffed and that the VA fairly treats its tribal health partners that provide overflow care in urban Alaska and function as the VA’s sole presence in rural Alaska.  I’m pleased that all of these priorities are reflected in this bill.”

Military Construction:

The bill provides $168.9 million for military construction at Eielson Air Force Base, funding the fourth phase of improvements to the central heating and power plant and seven projects related to the 2020-2021 beddown of two squadrons of the F-35A Joint Strike Fighter aircraft. To ensure that military construction dollars remain in the community, Senator Murkowski obtained language directing the Defense Department to consider adopting a pilot project currently pursued by the U.S. Department of Transportation, which establishes preference for local contractors and local labor in highway and mass transit construction projects.

Veterans Affairs (VA):

The bill also addresses several of Senator Murkowski’s priorities concerning the delivery of VA healthcare in Alaska. It urges the VA to permanently fill healthcare provider vacancies, emphasizing the three year absence of a permanent physician at the Community Based Outpatient Clinic in Wasilla. The bill directs the VA to address the VA’s provider vacancy problem by establishing a fast-track hiring program for departing military healthcare providers to transition to a civilian career in the VA system. The bill urges the VA to equitably resolve a reimbursement dispute with tribal health providers that threatens the future viability of the VA’s partnerships with the Alaska Native healthcare system. This provides overflow care for veterans in urban Alaska and care for rural Alaska veterans who would otherwise be unable to use their earned healthcare benefits.

Hmong Veterans:

Also in the bill is a change in law enabling the burial of Hmong freedom fighters in national cemeteries. During the Vietnam War, the CIA formed Special Guerilla Units of Hmong fighters in Laos to disrupt North Vietnamese supply lines, rescue downed U.S. pilots, and protect the Laotian government from falling to the Communist Pathet Lao. Following the war, some of the Hmong freedom fighters were relocated to the U.S. as refugees and provided an expeditious route to citizenship. Senator Murkowski’s legislation will enable these freedom fighters to be buried in national veterans’ cemeteries alongside their U.S. brothers in arms. In May, Murkowski introduced similar standalone legislation, called the Hmong Veterans’ Service Recognition Act, joined by Senator Dan Sullivan (R-AK) and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI).

NOTE: Fact sheets providing additional details on each of the military construction projects are available upon request.

Related Issues: Veterans, Defense