October 07, 2009

Senate Approves Bill that Funds Projects at White Sands Missile Range and National Defense

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Jeff Bingaman and Tom Udall today voted to approve a spending bill that contains more than $45 million dollars to support national defense efforts, including work at White Sands Missile Range and various New Mexico universities.

The Senate passed the fiscal year 2010 Defense Spending Bill (93-07); the measure must now be reconciled with the bill passed by the House of Representatives.

“This spending bill funds projects in our state that are critical to our nation’s defense. I’m especially pleased that we are providing $6 million to support the National Guard’s effective counter-drug activities along the border,” Bingaman said.

"This funding will provide for vital national defense projects along the border, at White Sands, and at NMSU," said Udall. "I am proud we are one step closer to having it signed into law."

Bingaman and Udall report that the measure contains the following for New Mexico:

$6 million for the New Mexico National Guard Counterdrug Support Program. This funding will support the Guard’s ability to conduct counterdrug activities in conjunction with by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Drug Enforcement Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, local law enforcement. With the ongoing drug-related violence in Mexico and the need to increase resources aimed at interdicting the flow of drugs, weapons, and bulk currency being smuggled over the border, the Guard's counterdrug assistance is more important than ever. The Guard's current counterdrug duties include camera surveillance of high traffic border areas, mobile vehicle inspection and dismantlement, vehicle barrier construction, and at-risk school counterdrug education programs.

$5 million for Kirtland Air Force Base to fund further field evaluation of the Advanced Tactical Laser before it is retired and to perform an analysis on the most suitable aircraft for future electric laser systems.

$2 million for Define Renewable Energy Sources at White Sands Missile Range. This funding will be used to develop plans for the environmental, site and other assessments needed to pursue alternative energy generation (such as wind, solar and geothermal) and storage options at White Sands Missile Range.

$6 million for the High Energy Laser System Test Facility at White Sands Missiles Range. This funding would be used to refurbish the Tactical High Energy Laser (THEL) subsystem to accommodate a solid state laser, for a test qualification live-fire, and would ensure that other users with late-emerging high energy laser test and evaluation needs vital to national security will be able to utilize the facility. Areas of research include rocket, artillery and mortar as well as unmanned aerial vehicle threats.

$4.7 million for the Regional Partnership at White Sands Missile Range. This funding, directed toward White Sands Missile Range (WSMR), Ft. Bliss and Holloman Air Force Base (HAFB), will help more effectively and efficiently manage the regions land, air and frequency domains. and coordinate real-time test and training missions.

$3 million for Algal Biofuels for Aviation at New Mexico State University. This project targets biofuels production from algal biomass as an alternative source of fuel for aviation. Between 2.5 and 3 percent of the Department of Defense (DOD) budget is spent on fuels, with more than 60 percent of the fuels used for aviation. Moving toward an alternative source of fuel for aviation would address sustainability, environmental impacts, economic dependence and energy security related to our military and our national security.

$7 million for Holloman Air Force Base’s High Speed Test Track. The funding would be used to advance technology development that allows for the implementation of a levitated, vibration-free test on the ground at a significantly reduced cost.

$4 million for Playas Training and Research Center at New Mexico Tech. This funding would establish Playas Training and Research Center as a Joint National Training and Experimentation Site for the National Guard Bureau to be used for mission training areas of joint operations between services as well as intergovernmental agencies, irregular warfare, new and emerging missions, emergency management and civil affairs and peacekeeping missions.

$2.9 million for UAV Systems and Operations Validation Program at New Mexico State University. This project will address a major shortfall of the existing Department of Defense knowledge base of the expertise and technology focused on small- to mid-sized Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs). The recent proliferation of small to medium UAVs within the various DOD services and commands emphasizes the need for systematic and consistent data sets to support decision makers. Critical needs for small- to mid-sized UAVs to be addressed by this project include reliability, standards, interoperability, airspace integration, communication links, maintenance standards, training, operator certification, and multiple airworthiness issues.

$2.4 million for the University Strategic Partnership at the University of New Mexico. This funding would be used in cooperation with divisions throughout the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) to research biotechnology, materials sciences, situational awareness, infectious diseases, radiation detection, and medical sciences.

$5 million for the Smart Instrument Development at the Magdalena Ridge Observatory (New Mexico Tech). This project is a unique teaming arrangement to build a state-of-the-art observatory with a 2.4 meter telescope and a multi-telescope interferometer that will make it a test bed for numerous astronomical and Department of Defense projects and will enhance the capabilities of the existing observatory, particularly in the area of Space Situational Awareness. The existing facility is currently being used to support the DOD in applications including sensor development and testing, space weather monitoring and the rapid tracking of Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) objects and debris. This project will result in the most comprehensive images of astronomical and man-made objects yet available.

The bill also boosts the Air Force Test and Evaluation budget by $19.3 million to hire more federal scientists and engineers helping the 46th Test Group’s activities at Holloman Air Force Base.

A separate bill working its way through the Senate contains funding for construction projects at New Mexico’s installations.