Skip to content

Udall, Heinrich Secure Strong Funding for NM Priorities in Defense Appropriations Bill

Bill includes key funding for NM military bases, defense programs

WASHINGTON -- U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) joined the full Senate in voting 85-7 to pass the fiscal year 2019 Defense appropriations bill, which provides critical funding to benefit New Mexico’s economy and national security priorities. The bill includes support for New Mexico’s military bases and federal installations, research and development into cutting-edge defense technologies, and essential upgrades to military equipment. It contains a number of measures to benefit New Mexico that Udall and Heinrich championed. 

Udall, who helped author the bill as a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee and the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, praised the bill’s strong funding for several programs that will benefit service members, military bases, and defense initiatives across New Mexico: 

“New Mexico is home to multiple military bases and federal installations, and to thousands of men and women in uniform -- which means we play an outsized role in defending our nation and spearheading essential defense programs. The bipartisan agreement passed today will fund critical investments in our defense systems and technologies, providing the women and men of our armed forces the resources they need to serve our nation safely and successfully,” said Udall.  

“We secured substantial funding for Kirtland Air Force Base, which is pioneering research into directed energy technologies, and White Sands Missile Range, where test activities contribute significantly to our military readiness,” Udall continued. “And I’m particularly pleased that we saved key programs, such as the Space Rapid Capabilities Office and STARBASE, which are indispensable to New Mexico’s space economy. I’m proud to serve on the Senate Appropriations Committee, where I helped author this legislation and advocated for New Mexico’s interests -- so we can continue to supply the nation with groundbreaking defense technologies and crucial programs for national security.” 

Heinrich, who serves on the Senate Armed Service Committee, highlighted funding in the bill that will benefit New Mexico's men and women in uniform, military installations, and job-creating initiatives throughout the state:

"New Mexicans make tremendous contributions to our national security and conduct some of the most critical missions for our military including training in fighter aircraft, carrying out search and rescue missions, and researching and developing the most advanced technologies." said Heinrich. "This bipartisan bill makes major investments to ensure our Armed Forces can train and are equipped with the most modern technology so that we can stay ahead of our adversaries."

"New Mexico is home to the Center of Excellence for small satellites and for directed energy weapons, and this bill increases funding to bolster those missions," Heinrich continued. "These provisions, among many others, will benefit our economy and further New Mexico's strong position as a leader in national security for years to come."

The agreement secures funding for defense priorities that are vital to the interests of New Mexico, including:

Directed Energy Activities: $484 million will go toward research, development, and production of directed energy technologies, which includes $352.3 million to the Air Force and $131.9 million to the Navy, representing a $140 million increase in spending from the President’s budget. The funding will support initiatives to explore and develop directed energy and electric weapons systems, high energy laser research, prototyping and other technologies. This includes:

  • Air Force
    • $141.9 million for directed energy technology
    • $14.5 million for high energy laser research initiatives
    • $45.9 million for high energy laser research
    • $150 million for directed energy prototyping – Udall and Heinrich worked to establish a new budget line item for directed energy prototyping and secured $150 million to accelerate transitioning this emerging technology to the field.  This fund will be used to advance several Air Force directed energy projects including the AC-130 high energy laser project, aircraft defense for fighter aircraft and high value aerial assets, base defense from unmanned aerial systems, and other similar programs.  Specifically, the funds will help equip an operationally relevant 60-kilowatt laser flying on an AC-130 by 2022. 
  • Navy
    • $131.9 million for directed energy and electric weapon systems

Kirtland Air Force Base, where these technologies were developed, is the epicenter of directed energy activities in the United States.

High Energy Laser System Test Facility (HELSTF): $15 million to upgrade the directed energy infrastructure at the High Energy Laser System Test Facility (HELSTF) at White Sands Missile Range and to manage increased directed energy workloads.  As directed energy weapon systems mature, the need to validate their performance becomes increasingly important. The workload and number of directed energy demonstrations and exercises have increased significantly since 1975 and that the projected workload for fiscal years 2018-2022 for HELSTF is large and growing, and has expanded to include high-powered-microwave testing.

Aerospace Propulsion$230.4 million for aerospace propulsion, including the following addition to the president’s budget request:

  • $12 million for Modular Array for the Directed Distribution of Integrated Energy (MADDIE), which will combine multiple power sources (solar cells, battery pack, and power electronics) into a single system to replace conventional satellite technology, resulting in lower costs and increased performance.  Improving power management issues addresses one of the greatest hurdles to wide scale deployment of small satellites.  New Mexico is currently an industry leader in manufacturing solar panels for space power applications.

Advanced Spacecraft Technology: $70.9 million for advanced spacecraft technology, including the following additions to the president’s budget request: 

  • $10 million for research and development of Space Laser Communications Systems, which will help provide DOD with secure, high range transmission systems.
  • $6 million for development of radiation hardened microelectronic processors, which enhance the survivability of weapons systems in radiation or nuclear environments 

Space Responsive Capabilities Office at Kirtland Air Force Base$371 million for the Space Rapid Capabilities Office (previously known as Operationally Responsive Space) at Kirtland Air Force Base, which is a $283.4 million increase from the fiscal year 2018 budget. The Rapid Capabilities Office is tasked with developing and fielding cutting-edge space capabilities, such as constellation satellite programs. New Mexico space businesses aim to benefit from this new organization and the opportunities it presents to increase reliable rapid access to space. Udall and Heinrich previously rescued the effort from elimination and have worked to increase its funding.

Advanced Weapons Technology: $53.4 million for Advanced Weapons Technology (a $7.9 million increase from the president’s budget proposal), including $10 million for a demonstrator laser weapon system. This funding would help improve space situational awareness, evaluate the efficacy of lasers against live fire targets and develop directed energy weapons for base defenses.

Space Technology: $121.6 million for Space Technology, including $4 million for advanced materials and process for magnetic graphene memory systems. This would provide funding to develop large-scale, radiation hardened, non-volatile memory for digital systems used in satellites, nuclear weapons, and nuclear weapon defense systems. The space technology line also funds research and development into secure, covert, anti-jam, very high data rate transmissions using laser communications in and from space.

  • Army Test Ranges and Facilities: $430.8 million — a $125 million increase from the president’s budget — for Army Test Ranges and Facilities, which would fund test activities at the Army’s test ranges and facilities, including White Sands Missile Range.

Low Power Laser Demonstrator (Missile Defense Agency): An additional $78 million to the president’s budget request for the development and demonstration of low power lasers for missile defense laser weapons systems.

Peer-Reviewed Medical Research: Added $330 million to the president’s budget request for peer-reviewed medical research, included a new line to support research into the impacts of burn pits, Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis. Senator Udall championed the creation of the Burn Pits registry and this new Peer-Reviewed Medical Research line will permit the Department of Defense to fund research into the health impacts of burn pits.

Civil Military Programs and STARBASE: $204 million for Civil Military Programs, which is a $38 million increase to the president’s request.

  • STARBASEThis includes an additional $15 million for STARBASE. Udall and Heinrich worked hard to ensure funding for STARBASE, which allows fourth and fifth grade students to participate in a 25-hour hands-on curriculum where they solve scientific challenges related to aerospace. It is run by dedicated service members and helps students learn the importance of STEM skills in real world situations while strengthening the ties between military bases and their surrounding communities. 

Since its inception in 1991, over 1 million students have benefited from the STARBASE Program, including nearly 8,000 5th grade students at the Air Force Research Laboratory at Kirtland Air Force Base.

Civil Air Patrol 

  • Operation and Maintenance:  Added $4 million to the president’s budget request for a total of $33.6 million for Civil Air Patrol operation and maintenance. This will fund the Civil Air Patrol Corporation, which supports emergency services and operations, and cadet and aerospace STEM education programs. It will also fund modifications to CAP aircraft, cyber infrastructure, security upgrades, and the replacement of critical communications equipment. 
  • Aircraft: Added $8.081 million to the president’s budget request for a total of $10.8 million for Civil Air Patrol aircraft.  This will provide funding for the Civil Air Patrol to replace and replenish its aircraft fleet.
  • Vehicles: Added $678,000 to the president’s budget request for a total of $1.7 million to fund the replacement of vans, pickups, and SUVs that support the operations, emergency missions, and cadet programs run by the Civil Air Patrol in over 1,000 communities every week.

Light Attack Aircraft

  • Aircraft: The bill included a $300 million increase in funding for the United States Air Force to begin procurement of light attack aircraft and associated long-lead material.  Developing a fleet of low-cost light attack aircraft will allow the military better conduct air operations in permissive environments and free our more capable fighters to deter our near-peer adversaries.