US Senate passes defense bill that could allocate billions to NM's labs, bases - Albuquerque Journal

US Senate passes defense bill that could allocate billions to NM’s labs, bases

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New Mexico plays a key role in the nation’s defense and an important bill is headed to the president’s desk for a signature.

The Senate passed the National Defense Authorization Act this week. The bill had already passed the House. If signed by the president, it will allocate billions of dollars to New Mexico’s national laboratories and military bases.

“This bill makes major investments to provide our Armed Forces with the state-of-the-art equipment they need to stay ahead of our adversaries and advance our leadership in emerging technologies like Artificial Intelligence and Hypersonics,” Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., said in a statement.

Home to national laboratories, a missile range and other military institutions, New Mexico will receive a significant amount of funding once approved by the president.

The entire bill authorizes about $858 billion in spending, according to DefenseNews.

Los Alamos National Laboratory (Albuquerque Journal)

One of the significant line items for New Mexico in the Department of Defense spending bill is $1.6 billion to continue plutonium research and pit production programs at Los Alamos National Laboratory. A plutonium pit is a hollowed sphere of plutonium that, when compressed by explosives inside a warhead or a bomb, causes a nuclear explosion.

The first plutonium pits were produced at Los Alamos in 1945 during the Manhattan Project, according to LANL’s website.

There’s also money earmarked for construction projects.

Heinrich, who is chair of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction, said the bill authorizes more than $22 million for Kirtland Air Force Base, about half of which will go to building accommodation for pilots.

It also includes funding for the construction of a munitions building to store explosives to be used in the training program for the Air Force’s AC-130J Ghostrider, an attack plane that is expected to be based at Kirtland in coming years, according to officials in Heinrich’s office.

“This training unit would align well with existing missions at both Kirtland and Cannon Air Force bases, which benefit from New Mexico’s unrivaled airspace, our premier testing ranges and our on-ground expertise,” he said.

The bill also includes $8 million for a munitions building at Cannon Air Force Base and $3.6 million for an assembly building at White Sands Missile Range.

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