The U.S. Senate passed a $750 billion defense funding bill Thursday that includes several Idaho-specific items.
The National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2020 passed the Senate 86-8. It includes funding for security, cleanup and waste disposal at Idaho National Laboratory and funding for improvements to the Idaho Army National Guard’s Orchard Combat Training Center, south of Boise. And, it includes funding for security at and for the Spent Fuel Handling Recapitalization Project, a $1.65 billion spent fuel handling facility being built at the Naval Reactors Facility northwest of Idaho Falls, according to a news release from U.S. Sens. Jim Risch and Mike Crapo, both R-Idaho.
These projects will cost $765,662,000 total, according to Crapo’s office. Specifically, the bill includes $331,354,000 for cleanup and waste disposal at the U.S. Department of Energy site west of Idaho Falls and $137,808,000 for sitewide safeguards and security. It includes $29 million for railroad tracks work at Orchard, and $238 million for the Spent Fuel Handling Recapitalization Project. These amounts are all close to or exactly what President Donald Trump requested in his defense budget proposal.
The overall bill is in line with Trump’s budget request and represents an almost 5 percent funding increase. It includes a 3 percent pay raise for service members and funding for improvements to military housing, upgrades to America’s nuclear arsenal and funding for more helicopters, fighter aircraft and 12 new ships, Defense News reported Thursday.
“It’s important to protect our servicemen and women just as they protect us, which is especially evident today as various nations engage in increasingly aggressive posturing toward the United States,” Risch said in a statement. “This NDAA will modernize our military infrastructure and offer critical assistance to military families, all while providing our troops with the largest pay raise in a decade. I’m proud to support this NDAA and ensure our men and women in uniform, including those serving at the Mountain Home Air Force base, Bayview Navy base, and in the Idaho National Guard, have the resources they need to defend against the most serious international threats.”
Crapo said the bill “provides for the common defense of the United States, and supplies the resources needed for our women and men in uniform to conduct their missions in a strong, forceful and efficient manner.”
“The women and men at Mountain Home Air Force Base and in the Idaho National Guard deserve Congress’s assurance that we will continue to meet their needs to carry out their missions,” he said. “The NDAA includes several wins for Idaho DOD facilities and projects, as well as other provisions to preserve and sustain American national security at home and abroad.”
Crapo’s office said he backed several other line items that made it into the final bill, including a provision to prevent federal funds from being used to buy rail cars or buses made by Chinese state-owned or subsidized companies, one authorizing more funding to combat opioid trafficking and one to “allow the federal government to rapidly adopt measures to safeguard the production and delivery of vital national security assets and ensure service members have equipment that is not compromised by adversaries like China, Iran and Russia.”
The House also needs to approve a defense budget, and House Democrats have already approved a defense budget target of $733 billion, or $17 billion lower than the Senate bill, Defense News reported. The House and Senate are expected to negotiate their differences over the coming weeks and months.
Editor's note: This article has been updated to correct the dollar amounts for the Idaho projects.