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Senate bill earmarks $50 million for 167th Airlift Wing

September 07, 2007|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - The U.S. Senate has approved a bill containing about $50 million for construction projects at the West Virginia Air National Guard base in Berkeley County, according to U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd's office.

Byrd included the money in a $109.3 billion military construction and veterans' affairs bill, Byrd spokesman John Bray said Friday.

The Senate approved its version of the bill on Thursday by a 92-1 vote. All six senators representing Maryland, Pennsylvania and West Virginia voted in favor of it.

The House of Representatives' version of the bill, which passed in June, does not contain the funding for the 167th Airlift Wing base, Bray said.

However, Byrd's influence as Appropriations Committee chairman should carry weight when a conference committee works on a compromise version of the bill, Bray said.

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"This is a top priority for him," Bray said.

Both chambers of Congress would have to approve the compromise bill before it could be sent to President Bush for his signature.

The $50 million in the Senate bill, if approved, will be used for projects connected to the arrival of C-5 aircraft at the Guard base at Eastern West Virginia Regional Airport, according to Byrd's office.

The projects and funding are:

- New fuel cell maintenance hangar and shops - $26 million

- Accelerate second phase of C-5 parking apron and runway upgrade/extension project - $12 million

- New squadron operations facility - $7.6 million

- Infrastructure upgrades - $5.2 million

The Guard is replacing its C-130 transport planes with larger C-5 planes.

The first plane of the new C-5 fleet landed at the base Dec. 4, 2006, according to Byrd's office.

Since 2003, close to $193 million has been dedicated to C-5 upgrades in Berkeley County, Bray wrote in an e-mail. That includes $113 million in President Bush's budget and $80 million that Byrd added, Bray wrote.

The current $50 million is not included in the $193 million.

In the press release, Byrd says the bill passed Thursday also would help address "significant shortfalls" in veterans' health-care programs.

It calls for more money to treat traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder among veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and more funding to repair and maintain Department of Veterans Affairs facilities, according to the release.

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