National Politics

Thad Cochran says spending bill has billions for Mississippi

Ingalls Shipbuilding’s 29th Arleigh Burke (DDG 51) destroyer John Finn (DDG 113) sails the Gulf of Mexico during Alpha sea trials in December. The spending bill that will be voted on this week includes money for three more destroyers.
Ingalls Shipbuilding’s 29th Arleigh Burke (DDG 51) destroyer John Finn (DDG 113) sails the Gulf of Mexico during Alpha sea trials in December. The spending bill that will be voted on this week includes money for three more destroyers. Huntington Ingalls Industries

U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., on Monday gave his support to a more than 1,600-page bill that would fund the government through Sept. 30.

Cochran’s office said in a press release that the omnibus appropriations legislation is a package of 11 regular appropriations bills for the rest of fiscal year, as well as additional funding sought by the Trump administration for national defense and border security.

If the bill isn’t passed by Friday, the government essentially will be out of money and nonessential services would begin shutting down.

“This legislation provides necessary resources for our national security and to meet other priorities for the American people. The bill is the product of bipartisan negotiations within Congress and with the new administration. It merits our support,” Cochran said in the release. “Mississippi’s important contributions to the security of our nation would be supported by this agreement. The legislation would also maintain programs that promote commerce and growth in Mississippi.”

But, the Associated Press reported, it also doesn’t contain dozens of policy riders the Republicans had hoped to use to overturn dozens of regulations issued by former President Barack Obama. Nor does it have money to build a wall on the southern border. And it also fails to “defund” Planned Parenthood, another conservative goal.

According to Cochran’s office, the highlights for Mississippi include:

▪  $21.2 billion for Navy shipbuilding programs, an increase of $2.8 billion, to build 10 new ships, three more than the last Obama budget request. Among these new vessels are three DDG-51 destroyers (which are built at Ingalls), one LHA amphibious assault ship, and one LPD amphibious transport dock. The bill also has $150 million to buy long-lead-time material for the first Polar Icebreaker Recapitalization ship, which is currently scheduled for award in fiscal year 2019.

▪  $10.45 billion for the U.S. Coast Guard, $344 million above the Department of Homeland Security budget request. The bill sustains the Coast Guard acquisition schedule for a new cutter fleet, including post-delivery activities for the ninth National Security Cutter, long-lead-time materials for the 10th NSC, and other vessel and aircraft procurement.

▪  $75 million to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to build a new Ocean Survey Vessel to conduct research in the Gulf of Mexico. This is in addition to the $80 million provided in the fiscal year 2016 Omnibus. The contract for ship construction will be openly competed, giving Mississippi shipyards an opportunity to build the vessel.

▪  $187 million for 28 Lakota LUH aircraft, which are built in Columbus.

▪  $114 million, $41 million above the budget request, for five MQ-8 Fire Scout aircraft, and $444 million for three MQ-4 Triton aircraft, which is $35 million above the budget request. The Northrop Grumman Unmanned System Center in Moss Point completes final assembly of the Fire Scout and Triton.

▪  $18 million in Homeland Security funding for small unmanned aircraft systems research and testing. This funding will support DHS missions, including border security, maritime security and counter-UAS operations. These activities will take place in Mississippi, which was recently designated as the DHS’s drone demonstration test range.

▪  $10 million in U.S. Department of Transportation funding for the FAA Unmanned Aerial Systems Center of Excellence, which is run by a Mississippi State University-led consortium.

▪  $222 million, $45 million above the budget request, for the Army high-performance computing modernization program. These funds are critical for the Vicksburg-based U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center and would directly impact the Mississippi State high-performance computing program.

▪  $22 million to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for research and development conducted at ERDC, $5.2 million above the budget request.

▪  $152 million for Applalachian Regional Commission to continue promoting business development, education and job training in 13 states from northeast Mississippi to western New York. This funding includes $16 million for industrial site and workforce development in southern and south central Appalachia focused primarily on the automotive supplier and aviation sectors.

▪  $25 million, $9 million above the budget request, for Delta Regional Authority to continue promoting economic and community development in the Mississippi Delta region. Within the overall amount, not less than $10 million is for basic public infrastructure work.

▪  $362 million, $140 million above the budget request and $23 million above fiscal year 2016 enacted level, for Army Corps of Engineers Mississippi River and Tributaries Project water resource projects in the lower Mississippi River Valley from Cape Girardeau, Missouri, to the Gulf of Mexico.

Included in the project:

▪  $95 million increase for flood control works that were unfunded or underfunded in the budget request;

▪  $41 million increase for the Corps of Engineers to use at its discretion to advance ongoing Civil Works projects, including water supply, ground water protection, waterfowl management, educational facilities and other activities;

▪  $4 million increase for port and harbor dredging along the Mississippi River.

▪  $333.4 million, a $12.5 million increase over the 2016 level, for the National Institutes of Health Institutional Development Award program, which supports biomedical research in states that are historically underutilized for NIH research. Mississippi is among 23 states currently eligible for IDeA grant awards.

▪  $1.39 billion, a $400 million increase, for Alzheimer’s disease research at the NIH National Institute on Aging. The MIND Center at University of Mississippi Medical Center is a leader in Alzheimer’s research.

▪  $30 million for the National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC), level with 2016 funding. The NCCC maintains a campus in Vicksburg. In addition, $386 million is provided for AmeriCorps State and National Grants, the same as 2016 funding.

Paul Hampton: 228-284-7296, @JPaulHampton