Military funding bills clear House, Senate committee
By By Lynette Wilson / staff writer
June 28, 2002
Major legislation covering projects at military bases in east Mississippi moved ahead in Congress on Thursday.
The U.S. House passed two separate bills, while the U.S. Senate's Appropriations Committee passed a measure containing $133 million for defense, national parks and forestry programs.
U.S. Rep. Chip Pickering, R-Miss., said a Department of Defense appropriations bill passed the House on a vote of 413 to 18. It includes $73 million for military bases in the 3rd Congressional District, including $2 million to repair and renovate the operations and training facility of the 186th Air National Guard at Key Field.
Another bill covering military construction, carried $42.1 million in funding for bases in Pickering's district, including $2.85 million for a new control tower and $9.75 million for 56 military housing units at Naval Air Station Meridian. It passed the House on a vote of 426 to 1.
In general terms, increased defense spending in Mississippi and Meridian means larger, more modern facilities and equipment that help protect bases from closure, according to Quinton Dickerson, Pickering's spokesman. "The more modernized the facilities," Dickerson said, "the more likely they are to stay open."
Officials expect that the next round of military base closures, known as base realignment and closure, or BRAC, will come in 2005. All across Mississippi, community leaders and military supporters are picking up the pace, planning for how best to protect the bases from Pentagon belt-tightening.
The appropriations measure cleared by the Senate committee includes $2.9 million for NAS Meridian a control tower and a beacon tower and $9.8 million for the construction of family housing units. Any differences in the House and Senate versions would likely be reconciled in a conference committee.
A Cochran spokesman said the Senate will take up the bill after its Independence Day break.