This week, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, which I am proud to chair, considered the fiscal year 2015 Department of Defense Appropriations bill. This annual bill funds our country’s military interests at home and abroad. Illinois stands to benefit from it, and here’s how:
The first priority in this bill is to the people who have dedicated their lives in service of this great nation. It fully funds a one percent pay raise for military and civilian personnel. This benefits the 13,000 Illinois National Guardsmen and the tens of thousands of personnel serving at Naval Station Great Lakes, Rock Island Arsenal and Scott Air Force Base.
This bill makes investments that are critical to the members of our Armed Forces, our allies, and our high-tech industrial base. Just as importantly, these investments are made within the requested amounts of funding for the Defense Department without using budget gimmicks. Instead, this bill sets priorities, removes unnecessary funding from 516 different programs, and reinvests those funds where they are needed the most.
Maintaining Our Industrial Base
The funding in this bill supports numerous projects and groups within Illinois’ industrial base. It funds continued nationwide engine upgrades and enhancements for C-130 military aircraft, eight of which are flown by the 182nd Air National Guard wing in Peoria. The upgrades will make them more powerful, energy efficient and less in need of repairs. The bill also contains funding to produce 12 new military planes, known as Growlers, that will directly impact the production lines in St. Louis and Southern Illinois.
Additionally, the bill provides $225 million to ensure workload rates remain competitive at arsenals nationwide, including the Rock Island Arsenal. It contains a requirement to make certain the Secretary of the Army is sustaining the arsenals’ critical capabilities by assigning healthy workload. Lastly, it directs the Secretary of Defense to review opportunities for workload from the other services in order to maximize opportunities.
Investing in Innovation and Discovery
The trend for U.S. research and development spending is going in the wrong direction. Other nations realize that investments in R&D are critical to national security and to their domestic economies. South Korea, Germany, and the European Union are all growing their R&D budgets by at least 5 percent; China by 20 percent.
On my watch, we will not become complacent in this area of our defense budget. The bill adds $257 million to basic research accounts in the military services and DARPA. These increases constitute a 5 percent increase to 2014 funding levels and an even larger increase to the budget request. Basic research funding allows universities to understand the nature of the world around us, which leads to breakthroughs in every scientific field imaginable. All of the research universities in Illinois compete annually for these funds in a variety of areas.
Protecting America’s Edge in Medical Research
This bill also maintains America’s edge in medical research. Thanks to advances in military medicine, our men and women in uniform are surviving battlefield injuries at a much higher rate. The bill provides a $789 million increase in medical research, continuing long-standing congressional investments in diseases such as breast cancer, prostate cancer, and traumatic brain injury. It also provides additional resources for the Peer-Reviewed Medical Research Program so that the Armed Forces can apply funding to the most promising proposals, through collaboration with the National Institutes of Health and other agencies.
Illinois contributes a great deal to the country’s military operations. It is my hope that the Senate will move quickly on this crucial bill. It makes very important strides in promoting our national security and serving those in uniform, and I urge for its approval.
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Sent from the office of U.S. Senator Dick Durbin