U.S. Senators Mark Pryor and John Boozman announced the Senate has passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) Conference Committee report, a bill that includes critical funding for Arkansas military construction projects, as well as provisions that provide pay raises and job opportunities for Arkansas military members. The bill passed the House of Representatives on Thursday and will now head to the President for his signature.
“To put it simply, I’m extremely disappointed in the Air Force and this conference committee bill,” Pryor said. “Despite the repeated urgings of the Arkansas delegation, this committee decided—against the wishes of congressman and senators from both sides of the aisle—to remove a provision that would have protected the 188th. Even though I’m frustrated, I voted for this bill because one of my top priorities is supporting our troops, their families, and our military installations.”
“This legislation is important to providing our troops with the resources and tools necessary to accomplish their missions in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, or wherever they may be assigned,” Boozman said. “The commitment of more than $40 million for military construction in Arkansas is good news for our state and our Armed Forces. This funding means Arkansas will continue to play an important role in the security of our nation and our Armed Forces will have the tolls and training they need to be successful in the future. While I am disappointed the provisions supported by the Arkansas Congressional delegation were not included, we will continue our efforts to fight for the 188th and secure a mission that is in the best interest of the Fighter Wing and our national security.”
Pryor and Boozman, along with the rest of the Arkansas delegation, have expressed fierce opposition to the decision to strip the bill of a provision that would restrict the Air Force from removing the A-10 mission at the 188th Fighter Wing in Fort Smith. Despite this frustration, Pryor and Boozman said the NDAA maintains critical funding that will benefit Arkansas service members and their families. Highlights of the bill include:
• Funding for the Little Rock Air Force Base: The Little Rock Air Force Base is authorized to receive $26 million to replace deteriorating hangers and construct new hangars to adequately house their planes. LRAFB is also authorized to receive $4.178 million to construct a flight stimulator system. By reducing the number of flying hours, this project will save the base save approximately $5.4 million a year.
• Funding for the Army National Guard in Searcy: The National Army Guard in Searcy is authorized to receive $6.8 million to construct a field maintenance shop for equipment and storage supply, maintenance bays, administrative space, and overhead lift capabilities. The current field maintenance shop is far away from the readiness center and is in poor condition.
• Pay raises for troops: The bill will authorize a 1.7% pay increase and extend bonuses and special pay for U.S. service members.
• Job opportunities for veterans: Included in the bill is the HIRE at Home Act, a bipartisan bill introduced by Pryor and cosponsored by Boozman, that encourages states to consider the specialized military training and experience service members acquire on active duty as filling all or some of the state certification and licensing requirements.
• National Commission on Air Force structure changes: The bill creates a national commission that will conduct extensive analysis and study the military readiness, effectiveness, and cost savings associated with the Air Force’s proposed force structure changes.