NDAA for 2023 funds projects at Central Louisiana military bases, addresses Alexandria VA Medical Center closures
WASHINGTON, D.C. (KALB) - On June 14, the House passed its version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) in a 329-101 vote. In total, the NDAA authorizes more than $840 million in national defense spending, which included a $1 billion uptick in military aid to Ukraine and a 4.6% pay raise across the board.
Camp Beauregard in Pineville will receive $765,000, which will go toward the Energy Resilience Conservation project.
Fort Polk in Leesville is set to receive $93 million, allocating $32 million for the construction of a new Child Development Center at the base and $61 million for the completion of a new Joint Operations Center, which is where troops are sent in from around the country to train and prepare for deployment.
The current operations center was constructed in the 1970s, and the goal of bringing about construction improvements has been in the works but not without challenges.
”This demonstrates a major investment by the Department of Defense and by the Army,” said Sen. Mike Reese (R-District 30). “Last year, they had about $51 million dedicated to this project, but due to all the escalation to costs that we’ve seen, the project came in at over 50% above budget. And so, many of us were worried whether or not the project would ultimately move forward and be completed. And so this shows a level of investment, a level of confidence by the military to increase that funding by $61 million.”
Congressman Mike Johnson similarly noted the NDAA’s provisions “specifically ensure that the military servicemembers of Louisiana’s 4th Congressional District are in the best position possible to carry out their duties,” and said he will work with his colleagues to “get it across the finish line.”
The NDAA included more than just funding, though. The legislation also addresses the recommended closure of the Alexandria VA Medical Center. The congressional delegation for Louisiana was able to arrange an amendment dissolving the U.S. Department of Defense’s VA Asset and Infrastructure Review Board, which had recommended the complete closure of the medical center earlier this spring.
Although the board was meant to review whether VA hospitals were being run efficiently around the nation, the recommended closure of the Central Louisiana location came as a surprise to the delegation, local constituents and service members.
“This is one step in the right direction, which I’m encouraged about,” said Rep. Julia Letlow (R-5th Congressional District). “So, I’m gonna do everything I can to continue fighting to keep the VA Hospital open, but I was so encouraged to see that in there.”
”We need to invest in healthcare services for our veterans. That should be first and foremost on our agenda and on everyone’s minds,” said Letlow. “So, if it’s about infrastructure, if it’s about efficiency, let’s fix it.”
Both Letlow and Reese acknowledged the report highlighted valid concerns regarding the facility. They emphasized the Central Louisiana community and veterans should not suffer from a closure as a result.
“I think that we will continue to have to hold the VA accountable when it comes to providing a high level of service and care to our veterans and to do so in modern facilities,” said Reese. “But, I think that’s something we can focus on a facility-by-facility basis working together with our congressional delegation, and not a one size fits all study for the country that would make, what we felt like, were changes that would be detrimental to the care of our veterans in Central Louisiana.”
The Senate now has to vote on the legislation.
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