PASCAGOULA, Miss.–Shipbuilding is a vital industry in Mississippi and the state is also invested in the U.S. military in many other ways. Thursday the Defense Appropriations Bill was approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee and will now be taken up by the full Senate. The bill would ensure that Mississippi continues its vital role in the nation’s defense.
“We need to make these funds available to our Armed Forces without delay,” said Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), chairman of the committee. “Mississippi, as home to a number of important facilities that provide much of the cutting-edge vessels, aircraft and vehicles needed by the Defense Department, will continue to play an important role in meeting these needs.”
The following is a summation from Cochran’s DC office:
The bill recommends $18.2 billion for Navy shipbuilding programs, an increase of $1.6 billion. In total, the bill would fund the construction of 10 new warships: two DDG-51 destroyers, three Littoral Combat Ships (LCS), two Virginia class submarines, one Joint High Speed Vessel, one T-AO Fleet Replenishment Oiler, and full funding for the LPD 28 amphibious transport dock. Cochran supported $1 billion in additional funds in last year’s appropriations bill, which set the stage for full funding of LPD 28 in FY2016.
The committee approved $477 million in advanced procurement, $199 million above the President’s budget request, for the construction of the LHA-8 amphibious assault ship. Another $250 million for advanced procurement was approved to accelerate delivery of the LX(R) class warship. The Navy and U.S. Marine Corps last year signed a memorandum of understanding to base the LX(R) design on the existing San Antonio-class LPD amphibious warship built at the Ingalls shipyard in Pascagoula.
In addition to shipbuilding, the following programs are among those funded in the Senate bill that would impact Mississippi directly:
- $677 million, $240.5 million over the budget request, for upgrading F-15 aircraft with the Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar systems built in Forest;
- $222 million, $45 million above the budget request, for the Army’s high performance computing modernization program headquartered at the Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC) in Vicksburg and with a Navy footprint at Stennis Space Center;
- $192.9 million, $130 million over the budget request, for the National Guard Counter-Drug Program and the National Guard Counterdrug Schools. This funding would support the Regional Counterdrug Training Academy (RCTA) at Naval Air Station Meridian;
- $187 million, included in the budget request, for 28 UH-72 Lakota Light Utility Helicopter aircraft built in Columbus; and,
- $156 million, $36 million above the budget request, for the procurement of five additional MQ-8C Fire Scout unmanned aerial vehicles, which are assembled in Moss Point.
Overall the bill provides $213.9 billion for Department of Defense operation and maintenance accounts, which will enable the services to continue addressing their most urgent training and maintenance deficiencies. The measure funds an active duty end strength of 1,305,200 and reserve component end strength of 811,000, as requested by the President and incorporated in the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act. It also strengthens the National Guard and Reserve equipment account.