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Defense bill could bring NM millions

The annual defense spending bill could mean hundreds of millions of dollars for New Mexico’s military bases and national labs if it clears the House and is signed by President Donald Trump.

The National Defense Authorization Act for 2020 passed the Senate before the Fourth of July break by an 86-8 vote. New Mexico’s Democratic senators, Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall, supported the legislation. The House is expected to vote on the bill this week.

“This bill makes major investments to ensure our Armed Forces are equipped with the most modern technology so we can stay ahead of our adversaries,” Heinrich said. “New Mexico is the center of excellence for small satellites and for directed energy weapons, and this bill increases funding and streamlines authorities to bolster those missions.”

Heinrich said the bill also makes major reforms to fix the military housing crisis and takes meaningful action on contamination at dairies outside Cannon Air Force Base. In an interview with the Journal, U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland, D-N.M., said the House version includes requirements for Kirtland Air Force Base to report the progress made to remediate contaminated soil and groundwater and detail the Air Force plans to engage and coordinate with local water utility authority, state environmental agencies and surrounding communities. And U.S. Rep Xochitl Torres Small, D-N.M. said the bill includes an amendment that will allow not-for-profit utilities, such as electric cooperatives, to receive Department of Defense funds to improve infrastructure in surrounding military bases.

Udall said “the money will be well spent” and includes funding for Los Alamos National Laboratory, Sandia National Laboratories, cyber security and artificial intelligence programs in New Mexico.

“These are some of the best jobs in New Mexico,” he said. “They are STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) jobs that are high paying.”

The Senate version of the NDAA includes:

⋄ $15.5 million for the construction of a combat rescue helicopter simulator facility at Kirtland Air Force Base;

⋄ $18.88 million for the Space Rapid Capabilities Office, which is housed at Kirtland;

⋄ $26.09 million for the Space Test Program at Kirtland;

⋄ $13.19 million for the Rocket Systems Launch Program, which is housed at Kirtland;

⋄ $20 million for the construction of a climate-controlled, storage and shipment facility at Holloman Air Force Base;

⋄ $15 million for White Sands Missile Range in order to accommodate the increase in directed energy testing workloads;

⋄ $195.5 million for soil and water remediation and removal of radioactive waste at Los Alamos National Lab; and

⋄ $398 million to operate the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant.

REP WEIGHS IN ON ‘SECRET’ BORDER PATROL PAGE: Torres Small is calling for the dismissal of individuals responsible for making disparaging comments on a “secret” Border Patrol Facebook page about the deaths and treatment of migrants, as well as members of Congress.

The existence of the group was reported by ProPublica, and is alleged to be comprised of former and current Border Patrol agents.

Torres Small – who represents the 2nd Congressional District along the border with Mexico – called the comments dehumanizing and disgraceful and unbecoming of an organization with the motto “honor first.”

“We must further assess the extent to which this behavior has permeated within the agency, and cannot let these actions undermine the agency’s mission, our handling of the crisis at hand, or our efforts to secure the border,” Torres Small said in a news release last week.

The Facebook page reportedly had sexually explicit posts about U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y. and comments questioning the authenticity of a photo of a drowned man and his young daughter.

In an Associated Press story, Border Patrol Chief Carla Provost called the posts “completely inappropriate.”

“Any employees found to have violated our standards of conduct will be held accountable,” she said.

Scott Turner: sturner@abqjournal.com

 

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