Durbin: Defense Appropriations Bill Makes Critical Investments in Illinois Priorities

[Washington, D.C.] – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chairman of the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, announced today that the Senate Appropriations Committee has approved the FY15 Department of Defense Appropriations Bill, which provides $549.3 billion in funding for the military and intelligence community, our national security requirements and the daily needs of over two million active duty and reserve servicemembers. This legislation fully funds the one percent pay raise for military and civilian personnel, which will benefit the 13,000 Illinois National Guardsmen and the tens of thousands of personnel serving at Naval Station Great Lakes, Rock Island Arsenal and Scott Air Force Base.


“Illinois has long taken a leadership role in our nation’s defense. Not only does our state claim three of our country’s most important and dynamic defense installations – Rock Island Arsenal, Scott Air Force Base, and Naval Station Great Lakes – we are also home to 13,000 National Guardsmen who serve in units throughout Illinois,” Durbin said.


“As Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee, I have worked to maintain our state’s leadership and to ensure that Illinois servicemembers, their families, and our military and civilian workforce have the support they need and deserve.”


The Fiscal Year 2015 Department of Defense Appropriations Act including funding for the following Illinois defense installations and priorities.


Rock Island Arsenal


The legislation includes $225 million in funding for Industrial Mobilization Capacity (IMC) to help arsenals keep their work rates competitive. This funding helps Rock Island Arsenal and other arsenals compete more effectively for public-private partnerships and other business to help sustain capacity, cost efficiency and technical competence in peacetime, while preserving the ability to provide an effective and timely response to mobilizations, national defense contingency situations and other emergent requirements. Durbin included a similar provision in the FY14 Department of Defense Appropriations Bill, which was funded in the Omnibus Appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2014.


The FY15 Department of Defense Appropriations Bill requires the Secretary of the Army to maintain a minimum workload at Rock Island Arsenal (and the arsenals in New York and Arkansas). The legislation also directs the Secretary of Defense to review opportunities within other services to maximize workloads at arsenals.


St. Louis EA-18G Growler Production


The Department of the Navy has identified a need for up to twenty-two additional EA-18G Growlers as part of its unfunded priorities list.


To meet that need, the FY15 Department of Defense Appropriations Bill includes $1.3 billion in funding to purchase twelve EA-18G Growlers and extend the current production line by a full year. Production of EA-18G Growlers is based at Boeing’s St. Louis plant, which employs thousands of workers, including 2,000 from Illinois.


Lovell Federal Health Care Center


The legislation approved by the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee today also fully funds the budget request – $146,857,000 through the Department of Defense – to extend the DOD-VA pilot program at Lovell Federal Health Care Center for a fifth year.


Since 1999, Durbin has played a major role in the development and implementation of the Lovell Federal Health Care Center, which serves as an integrated healthcare facility for both servicemembers and veterans in the North Chicago region.


Illinois National Guard


The FY15 Department of Defense Appropriations Bill provides an additional $22.6 million to accelerate nationwide engine upgrades and enhancements to C-130H aircraft, eight of which are flown by the 182nd Air National Guard wing based in Peoria, Illinois. These upgrades will reduce the need for repairs to the C-130H aircraft, and will also make them more powerful and energy efficient.


The bill also provides an additional $31 million in funding for the National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program. ChalleNGe academics – including Lincoln's ChalleNGe Academy in Rantoul, Illinois – give at-risk youths who have dropped out of high school a second chance at completing their education using a military model. Since its founding in 1993, 35 ChalleNGe academies across the country have graduated more than 120,000 participants.


Ammunition Production in East Alton and Marion, Illinois


The bill maintains funding for numerous ammunition lines – including lines produced at Olin Brass in East Alton, Illinois and General Dynamics in Marion, Illinois – which are critical to the safety of our troops overseas.


Veterans Claims Processing


The legislation includes an additional $3.6 million in funding for the Department of Defense to continue developing a program that allows it to provide all records electronically to the VA. This would greatly improve the speed and efficiency with which the VA is able to process veterans disability claims.


Last year, then-Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced a plan to modernize the veterans claims system and reduce wait times to less than 125 days with 98% accuracy by 2015. This plan includes instituting segmented lanes which assign easier cases to express desks and more complex claims to more experienced staff. It also includes implementing a web-based paperless portal for managing the claim electronically called Veterans Benefit Management System.


The VA and DOD have also continued working toward what has been identified as the best long-term solution: an Electronic Health Record system which would allow both departments to seamlessly share medical records. The funding approved today by the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee is an additional investment in the development of that system.


Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee


Durbin has served on the House and Senate Appropriations Committees for 26 years. He assumed Chairmanship of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee in 2013, taking over from his close friend and former Appropriations Committee Chairman, Daniel Inouye.


In addition to being the Assistant Majority Leader, Durbin serves on the Senate Foreign Relations, Judiciary and Rules Committees. He is the Chairman of the Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights.