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Bush signs spending bill with money for 167th

December 28, 2007|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. ? President Bush has signed a spending bill that includes about $50 million for upgrading the West Virginia Air National Guard base in Berkeley County for a larger fleet of planes, U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd's office said Friday.

"With the signing of this legislation into law, we take another major step forward in providing the infrastructure investments at Martinsburg Airbase which will serve not only as a catalyst for job creation and economic development in the Eastern Panhandle, but will also serve as part of an upgraded, updated national defense network," Byrd said in an e-mail from the Democratic senator's spokesman, Jesse Jacobs.

The allocation includes $12 million to accelerate the second phase of construction for the C-5 Galaxy parking apron and runway upgrade/extension project, Jacobs said.

"Byrd has been working to accelerate the project to ensure safe landing and takeoffs, as well as make adequate room on the Airbase for all 10 C-5s, when the 167th Airlift Wing becomes mission capable in 2009," Jacobs said.

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Projected to be completed in April 2009, the base's conversion from use of C-130H-3 transport planes to C-5s is expected to cost about $260 million, according to officials familiar with the project.

The first C-5 arrived in December 2006, and eight currently are at the base, officials said. A ninth plane is expected to arrive next month.

The remaining amount of funding ? $38.7 million ? is for the construction of a new fuel cell maintenance hangar and shops ($26 million), squadron operations facility ($7.6 million) and about $5.1 million for infrastructure upgrades.

The bill also included $17.3 million in funding to upgrade the West Virginia National Guard facilities at Yeager Airport in Charleston.

The 167th Airlift Wing provides support to military operations abroad, and has sent hundreds of members to Iraq in support of military operations there.

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