COCHRAN OUTLINES FY2016 OMNIBUS FUNDING HIGHLIGHTS FOR MISSISSIPPI
Appropriations Bill Promotes State’s National Defense Role, Economic Development
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) today highlighted provisions in a FY2016 omnibus appropriations bill that will benefit Mississippi and its role in supporting the nation’s security.
The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016 combines the 12 annual appropriations bills to fund government programs through September 2016. The Senate passed the measure on a 65 to 32 vote, and the legislation now goes to the White House for review.
Cochran, as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, played a pivotal role in the development of this legislation, following his successful shepherding of all 12 appropriations bills through the Senate committee markup process—a first since 2009.
“This legislation funds our national security needs, makes thoughtful investments in infrastructure, and promotes innovation that will grow our economy,” Cochran said. “I look forward to an improved appropriations process next year.”
Items of interest to the Jackson area and southwest Mississippi are included in the appropriations bills included in the omnibus measure, including increased funding to support high performance computing at the Army Corps of Engineers’ Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC) in Vicksburg, flood control and port improvements, and high-tech manufacturing that support national defense. It also continues investments in Mississippi’s universities, including Jackson State University.
“I’m pleased the omnibus bill supports projects that benefit the economy and wellbeing of the Mississippi,” Cochran said. “This bill reflects the many activities in Mississippi that contribute to the safety and security of our nation. It also supports those programs and projects that help improve our state, whether through flood control, economic development, or education.”
The bill will provide the highest level of funding since 2011 to the Army Corps of Engineers for the Mississippi River and Tributaries Project (MR&T), with new funding designated specifically for flood control improvement on hundreds of miles of levees and dredging that will support commerce at Mississippi’s inland ports. The bill provides $345 million for the MR&T, $120 million above the President’s budget request.
The bill includes $222 million, $45 million above the President’s budget, for the Department of Defense’s high performance computing modernization program headquartered at ERDC and with a Navy footprint at Stennis Space Center. Army Corps of Engineers research and development will receive $22 million in FY2016, with a majority of this work expected to be conducted at ERDC.
Cochran supported a $25 million appropriation for the Delta Regional Authority (DRA) in FY2016 to continue to promote economic and community development in the Mississippi Delta region. Within this funding, not less than $10 million is set aside for flood control, infrastructure development and transportation improvements to help address the basic needs of rural and underserved communities in Mississippi. The bill also provides $146 million for the Appalachian Regional Commission.
Mississippi’s senior U.S. Senator also secured $8 million within the National Park Service (NPS) Historic Preservation Fund to focus greater federal efforts to document, interpret, and preserve sites and stories associated with the Civil Rights Movement, many of which are in Mississippi, that have yet to be adequately addressed. The Mississippi Delta is also one of three National Heritage Areas that will benefit from the $19.8 million provided for the NPS Heritage Partnership Program.
In a bid to try to ensure better use of federal taxpayer funding and provide ratepayer relief for South Mississippi, Cochran secured approval for a provision in the omnibus to allow Department of Energy demonstration funding to be used to support the clean coal power plant in Kemper County.
The provision would redirect as much as $160 million from failing alternative energy projects to Clean Coal Power Initiative Demonstration Projects that are more likely to be successful. The Kemper County power plant is a project that would be eligible to receive reallocated funding. This transfer could mitigate the financial burden on Mississippi ratepayers and industry, who are otherwise paying for research and development that will benefit the entire nation.
The following is a review of some of the funding and policy highlights from the 12 appropriations bills included in the omnibus for Mississippi:
Farm Service Agency (FSA): A provision is included prohibiting the FSA from closing county offices.
ARS Forest Products Research: $3.5 million in ARS funding to support forest products research, a field in which Mississippi State University is a national leader.
Food Safety and Inspection Service: $1.014 billion for food safety and inspection programs. An increase of $2.5 million is provided to continue implementation of the new Catfish Inspection Program. The USDA final rule implementing the Catfish Inspection Program was published in November of this year.
Natural Products Research: $1.8 million in Food and Drug Administration funding for dietary supplements research. The National Center for Natural Product Research Center for Excellence at the University of Mississippi is the only center in the nation capable of adequately conducting this research.
Conservation Operations: $5 million for the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, working in cooperation with local soil and conservation districts, to install watershed improvement measures to reduce flood, sedimentation, and erosion damage on approximately 8.6 million authorized acres in the Yazoo and Little Tallahatchie River watersheds.
Water and Waste Disposal Loan and Grant Program: $364.3 million for water and waste disposal grants, which provides funding for clean and reliable drinking water systems, sanitary sewage disposal, sanitary solid waste disposal, and storm water drainage to households and businesses in eligible rural areas.
COMMERCE, JUSTICE, SCIENCE
Fisheries Management: A provision is included to extend the state seaward fishery boundaries for fisheries management in Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana from three miles to nine miles. This would give these states greater influence in regulating Gulf state fisheries. Currently, only Texas and Florida enjoy nine-mile limits, and this provision would ensure parity among all Gulf Coast states.
Space Launch System: $1.9 billion for the Space Launch System, which would allow the program to maintain its schedule to launch in the near future. Main engine testing for the Space Launch System are ongoing at the A-1 test stand and eventually will utilize the refurbished B-2 test stand at the Stennis Space Center.
Drug Courts: $41 million in Department of Justice funding for grants to support the administration of state and local drug court systems. Mississippi has 51 drug courts that could potentially benefit from this funding.
155th Armored Brigade Combat Team: Full funding is included for an Army National Guard end strength of 342,000 soldiers, which will ensure the Mississippi’s 155th Armored Brigade Combat Team is not divested in FY2016.
Hurricane Hunters: Language is included to ensure that the U.S. Air Force does not retire or divest the C-130 Hurricane Hunter fleet based at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi.
Navy Shipbuilding: $18.7 billion for Navy shipbuilding programs, an increase of $2.1 billion over the President’s budget request. Highlights include: two DDG-51 destroyers, three Littoral Combat Ships (LCS), two Virginia class submarines, one Joint High Speed Vessel, one T-AO Fleet Replenishment Oiler, and full funding for the LPD 28 amphibious transport dock, which will be built in Pascagoula. Cochran supported $1 billion in additional funds in FY2015, which set the stage for full funding of LPD 28 in FY2016.
The bill includes $477 million in advanced procurement, $199 million above the President’s budget request, for the construction of the LHA-8 amphibious assault ship. In addition, $250 million is provided for advanced procurement was approved to accelerate delivery of the LX(R) class warship. The Navy and U.S. Marine Corps last year signed a memorandum of understanding to base the LX(R) design on the existing San Antonio-class LPD amphibious warship built at Ingalls Shipyard in Pascagoula. Advanced procurement was also secured for one T-ATS(X) Fleet Tug and the Landing Craft Utility (LCU) replacement program.
AESA Radars for F-15s and F-16s: $634 million, $170 million above the President’s budget, for upgrading F-15 aircraft with the Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar systems built in Forest. An additional $40 million is provided for F-16 AESA radar improvements.
Next-Gen Jammer: $401 million in development funds for the Navy’s Next Generation Jammer, which is an Airborne Electronic Attack (AEA) system needed to meet current and emerging Electronic Warfare gaps. This AEA pod will replace the ageing ALQ-99 Tactical Jamming system and will be integrated into the EA-18G Growler Aircraft and could be built in Forest.
High Performance Computing Modernization: $222 million, $45 million above the President’s budget, for the Department of Defense’s high performance computing modernization program headquartered at the Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC) in Vicksburg and with a Navy footprint at Stennis Space Center. This program provides the Department with cutting edge modeling capabilities that accelerate new technology development, saving lives and money.
Regional Counterdrug Training Academy: $192.9 million, $130 million above the President’s budget, for the National Guard Counter-Drug Program and the National Guard Counterdrug Schools. This funding would support the Regional Counterdrug Training Academy (RCTA) at Naval Air Station Meridian through a newly created funding line dedicated to National Guard Training Centers.
Lakota Light Utility Helicopters: $187 million for 28 Army UH-72 Lakota Light Utility Helicopter aircraft built in Columbus at Golden Triangle Regional Airport.
ENERGY AND WATER DEVELOPMENT
Mississippi River and Tributaries Project (MR&T): $345 million for the MR&T project, which is $120 million above the President’s FY2016 budget request and the highest level of funding for MR&T since the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act in 2011. Of this additional funding:
· $72 million is set aside for flood control to ensure the integrity of hundreds of miles of levees and advance construction on important features such as the Delta Headwaters and Upper Yazoo Projects.
· $8 million is set aside for dredging to sustain the flow of commerce in and out of Mississippi’s inland ports, which sustain thousands of jobs and remain critical to the state and national economy.
· $40 million is set aside for other authorized purposes to assist the Corps of Engineers in carrying out other important functions under federal responsibility, including operation and maintenance of the Jesse Brent Lower Mississippi River Museum in Vicksburg and management of mitigation lands that serve as popular Wildlife Management Areas.
Environmental Infrastructure Funding: $55 million for water and wastewater infrastructure projects nationwide, the highest level since FY2011. Environmental Infrastructure funding was not requested in the President’s FY2016 budget. Mississippi has 22 ongoing, and many more pending, projects that could benefit from this funding.
Ports and Inland Waterways: $2.6 billion for navigation projects and studies, including $1.2 billion in funding from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund and full use of estimated annual revenues from the Inland Waterways Trust Fund, to advance American competitiveness and export capabilities. The other $1.7 billion is provided to support flood and storm damage reduction activities, including $310 million to improve the nation’s most critical dams, many of which are in Mississippi.
Corps of Engineers Research and Development: $22 million, nearly $4 million above the budget request, for research and development performed by the Army Corps of Engineers. The majority of this research takes place at the Corps’ Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC) in Vicksburg, Mississippi.
Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC): $146 million for the ARC, an economic development agency focusing on business development, education, and job training in thirteen states from Northeast Mississippi to western New York. This funding includes $16 million to support workforce training programs in south central Appalachia, which includes Mississippi. East Mississippi Community College received $6.1 million in ARC funding in September for a workforce training center at the Golden Triangle Regional Global Industrial Aerospace Park that is focused on increasing Mississippi’s advanced manufacturing and engineering capabilities.
Delta Regional Authority (DRA): $25 million for the DRA, which works to promote economic and community development in the Mississippi Delta region. This is the highest funding level for the DRA since its authorization in 2000. Of the $25 million for DRA, not less than $10 million is set aside for flood control, infrastructure development and transportation improvements to help address the basic needs of rural and underserved communities in Mississippi and throughout the region.
Ratepayer Relief for South Mississippi: The bill includes a provision that would redirect as much as $160 million from failing alternative energy projects to Clean Coal Power Initiative Demonstration Projects that are more likely to be successful. The Kemper County power plant is a project that would be eligible to receive reallocated funding. This transfer could mitigate the financial burden on Mississippi ratepayers and industry, who are otherwise paying for research and development that will benefit the entire nation.
FINANCIAL SERVICES, GENERAL GOVERNMENT
Greenville Courthouse: $52 million in GSA construction and acquisition funding for joint United States courthouses, federal buildings, including U.S. post offices. Of the $52 million, not less than $46 million is set aside for a new Greenville Federal Building.
Rural Wireless Broadband: A provision is included to ensure that additional cuts of approximately $50 million are not made to programs that provide wireless broadband access in poor and rural areas. This benefits Mississippi’s effort to expand telehealth services, education programs, precision agriculture, and weather monitoring.
Federal Flood Risk Management Standard: A provision is included that prohibits the executive branch from imposing a new Federal Flood Risk Management Standard on the Department of Defense, the Corps of Engineers, or the National Flood Insurance Program.
Community Development Financial Institute (CDFI): $21 million in CDFI funding for the Bank Enterprise Award program, which supports FDIC-insured institutions that make significant investments in distressed communities. The measure includes language that encourages the CDFI to fund projects in non-metropolitan and rural areas, as well as those serving persistent poverty counties. A significant number of CDFIs are in Mississippi
FEMA Disaster Relief Fund: $7.37 billion for the Disaster Relief Fund, which is the primary resource for rebuilding public infrastructure after disasters. The bill provides $165 million above the FY2015 level for hazard mitigation activities. For every $1 invested in mitigation, $4 can be saved in disaster recovery.
Coast Guard National Security Cutter: $640 million in U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) acquisition funding, not included in the President’s request, for procurement of a ninth National Security Cutter (NSC). The NSC, built in Pascagoula, is the largest and most technologically-advanced ship ever deployed by the USCG. Recent studies and reports by the Government Accountability Office and Congressional Research Service have explored the difficulties facing the USCG as it relies more on the new NSCs while retiring older, less-advanced cutters that are nearly 50 years old.
INTERIOR AND ENVIRONMENT
BP Agreement/North American Wetlands Conservation Fund: A provision is included directing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to give priority to conservation projects in Gulf States when distributing funds from the North American Wetlands Conservation Fund that originate from the $100 million paid as part of the BP Guilty Plea Agreement (Count 13). This BP penalty funding is designated for migratory bird habitat and other conservation initiatives in Gulf States affected by the spill. The bill also requires the FWS to report to the Senate and House appropriations committees its evaluation rating system used to award funding, a summary of selected projects, and rationale for denying other projects.
U.S. Geological Survey Groundwater Resource Study: $2 million for the U.S. Geological Survey to conduct enhanced groundwater resource studies to assess declining aquifers in regions within the Mississippi River Alluvial Plain that are experiencing variability in groundwater systems. These resources will help address significant aquifer declines in the Mississippi Delta as a result of agriculture irrigation.
Civil Rights Site Preservation: $8 million within the National Park Service Historic Preservation Fund to document, interpret, and preserve sites and stories associated with the Civil Rights Movement, many of which are in Mississippi, that have yet to be adequately addressed.
Vicksburg National Military Park: $1.5 million within the National Park Service for construction project(s) at Vicksburg National Military Park.
Heritage Partnership Program: $19.8 million, $9.9 million above the President’s budget, for this National Park Service program. It provides resources for three National Heritage Areas in Mississippi: Mississippi Hills, Mississippi Gulf Coast, and Mississippi Delta.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): The bill holds the EPA at the FY2015 enacted level of $8.139 billion, rejecting $451 million in increases requested by the President in his 2016 budget. By keeping the operating programs at the enacted level, the bill reduces the amounts available to the Agency because it does not account for inflation. The bill also continues to prohibit the EPA from regulating certain types of ammunition and fishing tackle and from regulating livestock emissions.
LABOR, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, AND EDUCATION
Job Corps: $1.7 billion for Job Corps, which will support the Mississippi Job Corps centers in Batesville, Gulfport, and Crystal Springs. The Joint Explanatory Statement also re-emphasizes language from the Senate report urging the Department of Labor to move forward without delay with the reconstruction of the Gulfport facility, which was destroyed during Hurricane Katrina.
YouthBuild: $84.5 million for YouthBuild, a program providing education and job training to unemployed teens and young adults. Mississippi has YouthBuild programs in Gulfport, Jackson, and Greenville.
Telehealth: $17 million for telehealth programs, an increase of $2.1 million from the FY2015 levels. The University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson is a national telehealth leader.
Delta States Rural Development Network: $10 million, an increase of $4.5 million, for the Delta States Rural Development Network, which funds organizations in the eight Delta States (Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee, Louisiana, Kentucky, Missouri, and Illinois) to address unmet local health care needs and prevalent health disparities through the development of new and innovative projects in rural Delta communities.
National Institutes of Health’s Institutional Development Award (IDeA) Program: $320.8 million, a $47.5 million increase over the FY2015 level, for the National Institutes of Health’s IDeA program, which supports biomedical research in states that are historically underutilized. Mississippi is among 23 states currently eligible for IDeA grant awards.
Mississippi Delta Health Collaborative: The Joint Explanatory Statement re-emphasizes language in the Senate report providing continued funding for the Mississippi Delta Health Collaborative for FY2016. This collaborative provides leadership in the Delta region to implement heart disease and stroke prevention interventions to reduce morbidity, mortality, and related health disparities.
Indianola Promise Neighborhood: Necessary funding is included to support the continued operation of the Promise Neighborhood program in Indianola. This program is designed to mitigate the effects of poverty and to improve education and life outcomes, from birth through college to career, for children and youth within distressed geographic areas. The work of the Indianola Promise Neighborhood has led to impressive educational outcomes and could be a model for rural education nationwide.
Obamacare: The bill blocks many of Obamacare’s most egregious provisions. It would stop any taxpayer bailout of insurance companies through the risk corridor program, cuts funding to the Independent Payment Advisory Board, delays the Obamacare “Cadillac tax” and medical device tax for two years, blocks the Administration from using the Prevention and Public Health Fund as a slush fund, and directs the Inspectors General at the Department of Health and Human Services and the Treasury to investigate fraudulent Obamacare payments.
MILITARY CONSTRUCTION AND VETERANS AFFAIRS
Guy II & Will Jones U.S. Army Reserve Center (USARC): $9.3 million to construct a new USARC in Starkville, reflecting the Senate’s position on this project. The appropriations bill initially passed by the House of Representatives did not recommend funding for this project.
Gulf Coast Veterans Care: The Joint Explanatory Statement re-emphasizes language Senator Cochran worked to include in the Senate Committee Report directing the VA to continue reporting to Congress the details of its actions to resolve administration and care concerns at the Gulf Coast Veterans Health Care System in Biloxi. The Joint Explanatory Statement also includes new language to address concerns regarding the recent removal of senior-level staff within the Armed Forces Retirement Home in Gulfport.
Gulfport Aviation Classification Repair Depot: $40 million for a comprehensive upgrade of the National Guard’s Theater Aviation Sustainment Maintenance Group (TASMG) facility in Gulfport, which is critical to repairing and maintaining Army aviation assets in the Southeast region.
TRANSPORTATION, HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT
Unmanned Aircraft Systems Research: $5.5 million for the FAA Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) Center of Excellence. In May, the FAA designated the Mississippi State University-led consortium of universities from across the country–the Alliance for System Safety of UAS Through Research Excellence (ASSURE) –as the FAA UAS Center of Excellence. The Center will work to identify issues critical to the safe integration of UAS into the nation’s airspace and engage in research and policy development on the expanding use of unmanned aircraft.
Essential Air Service (EAS): $175 million for the EAS program, which provides certainty to air carriers serving small communities. Four Mississippi airports currently participate in the program: Greenville, Hattiesburg/Laurel, Meridian, and Tupelo.
FAA Contract Towers: Full funding is included for all existing contract towers, including facilities at the Golden Triangle Regional, Greenville Municipal, Hawkins Field (Jackson), Meridian/Key Field, Olive Branch, Stennis International Airport, Tupelo Regional airports.
University Transportation Centers: Full funding is included for University Transportation Centers. Jackson State currently receives $235,000 per year for research on waterborne multimodal freight transportation.