Steve Rogers

About Steve Rogers

Assistant News Director/Assignment Editor; degree in finance and administration from Yale University; 35 years experience in journalism.

Senate Bill Includes Money for More Lakotas

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Press Release) – U.S. Senator Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), vice chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, today supported committee passage of a defense funding bill that makes progress on meeting challenges associated with maintaining the nation’s naval power and improving readiness of the nation’s Armed Forces.

Cochran on Thursday supported approval of the FY2015 Defense Appropriations Bill by the Senate Appropriations Committee. The nearly $549 billion measure, which is now available for consideration by the entire Senate, makes $11 billion in reductions from program requests throughout the Department of Defense and Intelligence Community, and redirects some of those savings to other national defense priorities like readiness, ships and aircraft.

“The FY2015 Defense Appropriations Bill represents an honest effort to consider the needs of the Armed Forces within the limits set by the budget process. We’ve worked to ensure that our military forces have the resources they need to carry out their missions and protect our national security interests,” Cochran said. “I hope the bill will soon be brought to the floor for debate so that all Senators will have a chance to offer amendments and improvements to it.”

“On a number of fronts, this bill will allow Mississippians to continue their important role in supporting the nation’s security interests,” he added. “Our state is proud of its contributions to ensuring that our men and women in uniform are the best equipped and trained in the world.”

In crafting the bill, Cochran worked to secure $800 million for procurement of a 12th LPD class amphibious warship, a project that has been identified as a priority for the U.S. Marine Corps and the Navy. The LPD class amphibious warships are built in Pascagoula.

Despite the Marine Corps’ need for the 12th LPD vessel, the President did not request funding for it and the House-passed version of the FY2015 Defense Appropriations Bill did not provide funding for it.

“I am confident that the Senate and House will resolve this difference in a manner that best suits our security interests,” Cochran said. “The Senate bill recognizes the Marine Corps’ need for another LPD vessel, as well as the budgetary benefits of continuing the active production line as the Navy and Defense Department develop a plan for a new generation of naval vessels to meet the changing threats facing our security interests.”

In addition to $800 million for the LPD 17 program, Cochran cited other funding to help the Armed Forces that the President failed to request that directly impact Mississippi, including:

  • $220 million, $40 million above the President’s request, to support High Performance Computing at Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC) in Vicksburg;
  • $130 million, funding not in the President’s request, to enhance National Guard counterdrug activities and the Regional Counterdrug Training Academy at the Meridian Naval Air Station;
  • $10 million, $8 million above the President’s request, to improve the Digital Radar Warning Receiver built in Forest for the Air National Guard; and
  • $110 million, $70 million above the President’s request, for the procurement of MQ-8C Fire Scouts, which are assembled in Moss Point.

The bill also provides $2.67 billion for the procurement of two DDG-51 destroyers, one of which would be built in Pascagoula.

In addition, the measure also funds 55 Lakota Light Utility Helicopters, which are produced in Columbus. This represents a major increase from the procurement of 20 Lakota aircraft funded in FY2014. Separately, Cochran is also supporting a pending FY2014 reprogramming request from the U.S. Army which calls for the procurement of 21 additional Lakota Light Utility Helicopters in FY2014.

Overall, the bill supports the administration’s request for a 1.0 percent pay raise for military and civilian personnel. It also adds $200 million to maintain operations at commissaries.

The Senate bill adds $507.5 million to fully fund military retirement benefits, meeting the congressional commitment to reverse cuts made to those benefits in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 (Murray-Ryan agreement). Cochran opposed that Act.

In compliance with the earmark moratorium, the Senate bill contains no congressionally-directed spending items. The bill, however, directs funding not requested in the President’s FY2015 budget request toward national programs of inherent value for national defense, including shortfalls identified by the Services and activities authorized by the Senate Armed Services Committee or Defense Appropriations Subcommittee.