Federal Funding Will Improve National Security, Help Troops
Washington, D.C. – Senator Harry Reid announced today that next year’s federal defense budget will include $77.65 million for Nevada military bases and Nevada-based projects. Reid set aside the funding in the FY 2006 Department of Defense Appropriations Bill, which just received final Congressional approval.
Reid’s earmarks include $5.3 million for projects at Hawthorne Army Depot and $2.8 million for the Nevada National Guard, both of which faced closure or cutbacks earlier this year by the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Commission. Reid fought to make sure the BRAC Commission understood the unique contributions of both installations.
“At one point the Pentagon wanted to close Hawthorne and cut operations at the Nevada National Guard Base in Reno – two of the finest military facilities in America,” said Reid. “That would have been a terrible loss to our country. Now we have not only preserved those bases, but we’ve increased their funding and added to their responsibilities. Nevada will now be able to contribute even more to our national security efforts.”
The bill includes funding for a variety of high-tech programs being developed at Nevada’s universities, research facilities, and private companies. Among them is the Computer Automated Virtual Environment facility (CAVE), which will get $4 million. The Desert Research Institute is developing the virtual reality facility in Reno. CAVE uses computer technology to create three-dimensional simulations of terrains. Military personnel can practice maneuvers in realistic settings before deploying to combat locations. For instance, pilots can practice landing a helicopter in a sandstorm in the virtual-reality Iraqi desert, without risking their own safety or their helicopters.
The bill also includes $7 million for the Sierra Nevada Corporation in Sparks, for the development of the Helicopter Autonomous Landing System (HALS). The imaging radar system will help helicopters land safely in low or no-visibility conditions, called brownouts.
The University of Nevada School of Medicine will get $2.1 million to develop new blood transfusion equipment that could save American lives on the battlefield. The equipment could be operated without electric power, using specially designed batteries instead. Donated blood must be stored at 34 degrees Fahrenheit, but it can’t be transplanted into a human body until it’s close to 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit or it will cause hypothermia and shock. Hospitals use electric-powered equipment to heat blood for transfusions, but military medics often have to work in locations with no electricity. The battery powered equipment would allow wounded troops to get transfusions on the front lines, before arriving at a hospital. The technology could also help civilian hospitals during blackouts or natural disasters when power supplies are interrupted.
The University of Nevada Las Vegas will get $1.6 million to help fight bioterrorism. UNLV will study news ways to find and identify dangerous microorganisms in the environment. The work could help experts respond faster in case of a biological weapons attack.
Congress also gave final approval to a second military operations bill, the FY 2006 Defense Authorization Bill. The measure continues Reid’s work to get fair retirement pay for disabled veterans. A Civil War-era law prohibits military retirees from getting disability pay and retirement pay at the same time, even though all other federal retirees can get both. Reid has been working for years to restore full benefits to disabled veterans.
The FY 2006 Defense Authorization Bill reduces by four years and three months the current ten-year phased implementation of full concurrent receipt of veterans’ disability compensation and military retired pay for retirees receiving veterans’ disability compensation at the rate payable for 100 percent disability by reason of a determination of individual unemployability, allowing such retirees to receive full payment of both on October 1, 2009, and thereafter.
The bill also includes language to allow the Hawthorne Army Depot to expand the services and facilities it can offer to other branches of the military. That will give units like the Navy SEALS and Army Special Forces another potential site for training, and will help increase the military value of the Hawthorne base. The potential for cross-branch use was one of the factors Reid used to convince the BRAC Commission that Hawthorne needed to be preserved.