Appropriations bill funds labs and bases, PILT, LWCF, veterans' programs, water projects and more
WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Tom Udall, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, and U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich joined the full Senate in voting 65-33 for a so-called “omnibus” appropriations bill to fund the government through September 2016. The U.S. House of Representatives approved the bill earlier today and it now heads to the president, who is expected to sign it into law.
The bill funds several critical New Mexico programs such as veterans’ services; Tribal and Head Start programs; Los Alamos and Sandia national labs; construction at Holloman, Kirtland and Cannon Air Force bases; New Mexico's national parks, monuments and refuges; public lands agencies; water projects across the state; Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT); and the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).
The funding bill follows spending levels set in a bipartisan budget agreement that Congress approved earlier this fall. That framework rolled back devastating sequestration budget cuts that have hurt military readiness, rural development and other programs that New Mexico families depend on.
Udall said: “This bill will support jobs and economic development in every corner of our state. Funding for our national labs and military bases will ensure New Mexico can continue contributing to our national security and tomorrow’s technological breakthroughs. The funding levels in this bill follow through with our bipartisan agreement to end sequestration cuts that have devastated federal investments that benefit our state's hardworking families. Now we’re able to provide much-needed boosts to early childhood programs like Head Start, Tribal health and education, and quality services for our veterans.” Udall, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee and lead Democrat on the Subcommittee for Interior, Environment and Related Agencies, announced that funding for several New Mexico public lands and Tribal priorities had been included in the bill earlier this week, including a three-year extension of the LWCF. Udall also led the effort to remove harmful anti-environment provisions from the bill. Those provisions would have weakened bedrock environmental laws and blocked efforts to reduce the impact of climate change in New Mexico and across the country.
Heinrich said: “This balanced, bipartisan agreement makes robust investments in our economy and will create and preserve jobs in New Mexico at a time when we truly need them. By following the framework of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, we restored funding to education, veterans, women’s health, substance abuse and mental health services, infrastructure, homeland security, and defense. We also removed harmful Republican policy riders that would have weakened Wall Street reform and consumer protections, eliminated safeguards for clean air and drinking water, and curbed the president’s authority to create national monuments under the Antiquities Act. New Mexico’s national laboratories, military bases, and WIPP will all receive critical federal investments in this bipartisan deal. Our rural counties will receive a substantial increase in PILT funding. This package also includes robust, multi-year clean energy incentives that will move us toward our climate goals, including wind and solar tax credits, and investments in the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Because of the services we provide to the nation, New Mexico’s economy relies heavily on federal investments. Congress must continue to work together and be willing to compromise in order to get things done for the American people and New Mexico.”
New Mexico funding and other highlights of the bill include:
PILT AND LWCF
Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) - $452 million for payments to counties nationwide through the PILT program, which helps local governments pay for law enforcement, schools, roads and other critical services. This is the amount estimated in the president’s budget to fully fund payments in fiscal year 2016. The funding will be divided according to a formula determined by the U.S. Department of the Interior. Last year, New Mexico counties received $34.5 million.
Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) - The bill allocates $450 million, almost $150 million more than last year, and authorizes the LWCF for three years. The LWCF has helped create and protect urban parks and open spaces that enhance recreation and outdoor opportunities in urban and rural communities alike. It's funded through revenues from federal oil and gas leases on the Outer Continental Shelf and does not use taxpayer dollars. The program also supports America's outdoor recreation, conservation and preservation economies, which contribute more than $1 trillion to the nation's economy each year and support 9.4 million American jobs. More than $261 million has been spent in New Mexico since 1965 to protect natural resources and provide recreational opportunities, including more than $41 million for state and local grants. This year, New Mexico will receive $5.5 million to conserve lands within the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument, at Pecos National Historical Park and along the Continental Divide Scenic Trail.
WIPP, LOS ALAMOS AND SANDIA NATIONAL LABS, ABQ NNSA
Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) - $305 million, which includes $148 million for operations and maintenance, $82 million for recovery activities, $5 million for security, and full funding for two construction projects: $23 million for ventilation and $7.5 million for the new shaft.
Environmental clean-up at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) - $185 million.
Sandia National Lab and LANL operations funding - $196.46 million for operations at LANL; $115.3 million for Sandia, a $9.3 million increase.
LANL construction projects - $255.19 million for six projects including $25 million for TA-3 substation replacement; $18.2 million for TA-55 reinvestment project III; $3.9 million for TA-55 reinvestment project II; $11.53 million for the radioactive liquid waste treatment facility; $40.95 million for the transuranic liquid waste facility; and $155.61 million for CMR replacement. The current CMR facility will be decommissioned in 2019.
B61 Life Extension Project (LEP) - Both Los Alamos and Sandia national labs are instrumental in carrying out this program, which maintains our nation's nuclear weapons stockpile while allowing for the eventual elimination of the nation's largest warhead, the B83. The bill provides $643.3 million total for B61 LEP.
W80-4 Life Extension Project (LEP) - $195 million for the Sandia project, which is refurbishing the W80 warhead with replacement components for aging technology and components that have limited lifespans.
National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) Albuquerque Complex - $8 million for project engineering and design of a new project to replace the aging NNSA Albuquerque Complex. An additional $2.5 million may be repurposed to complete the conceptual design for the project.
Overall National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) funding - The bill includes $12.53 billion for the NNSA overall, a 9 percent increase. Of that, weapons activities are receiving a 7.5 percent increase to $8.85 billion and non-proliferation activities are receiving an increase of about 18 percent to $1.94 billion. These increases will provide much-needed funding boosts to the Department of Energy’s national nuclear security labs, including Los Alamos and Sandia.
Department of Defense (DOD) funding is restored to pre-sequester levels. Operation budgets for each military base will be determined by DOD. The bill also includes nearly $69 million for several construction projects at New Mexico bases, as well as funding for numerous defense programs.
Cannon Air Force Base construction:
- $7.8 million to construct an antiterrorism/force protection (AT/FP) gate. The current Portales Entry Control Point does meet current AT/FP standards. The project is for construction on a new gatehouse, vehicle inspection station, and associated roads that meet current AT/FP criteria.
- $20.4 million to build a pump house and fuel storage. The current refueling facilities are located on the northwest side of the runway, but aircraft require refueling from both the northwest and southeast of the runways. Refueling in this manner is too slow to support mission requirements. The project will construct a new fuels storage distribution point with two above-ground fuel storage tanks, a pump house, an emergency generator, a transfer pipeline and other systems needed for the project. Construction also includes remediation of fuel contaminated soil.
- $11.565 million for a Special Operations Forces squadron operations facility. A multi-story operations and training facility addition will support instructors and students, providing a facility to teach and critique combat crews on special operations forces training. The facility will also include trainers for CV-22 specific training as well as night vision operations, and fire, rescue, medical, and explosive ordnance disposal.
- $13.146 million for Special Operations Forces ST operational training facilities. This project includes building an aquatic training center and indoor small arms firing range.
Holloman Air Force Base construction:
- $3 million for Marshalling Area Arm/De-Arm Pad D. Construction supports the change in mission at HAFB to an F-16 training mission. The lack of marshalling areas on the Holloman airfield for aircraft to utilize post-arming is a significant problem, which must be overcome prior to student training. Processes in place at Holloman now prevent aircraft from taking off into the White Sands Missile Range complex prior to the start of their airspace time. However, even if aircraft were allowed to take off early, in many cases there is currently no place for them to hold prior to entering the working airspace.
Kirtland Air Force Base construction:
- $12.8 million for the Space Vehicles Component Development Lab. This project will support space vehicles component development of space power generation, solar arrays and photovoltaic cells, space power storage, space vehicle mechanisms (launch separators and maneuvering components), mechanism controls, space protection including radiation-hardened electronics, and environmental sensors and cryocoolers. The facility should provide four light labs, two medium labs, and class 1,000 clean rooms required for space vehicle research, development, and experiments. It should also provide office space for analysis, engineering, engineering support and management personnel. It should comply with DOD antiterrorism/force protection provisions.
Operationally Responsive Space (ORS) - $16.46 million for ORS, a Kirtland-based program that works with the broader space community to provide “assured space power focused on timely satisfaction of Joint Force Commanders’ needs.” ORS seeks to revolutionize access to space with the development of satellites and launch capabilities on shorter timelines and at less cost, directly benefiting the warfighters who increasingly rely on space-based assets for situational awareness and planning.
Technology Offset Initiative - $100 million for a new “technology offset” fund to invest in cutting-edge technologies, $50 million specifically for directed energy. These emerging technologies will help the Armed Forces maintain its advantage over near-peer competitors.
Advanced Spacecraft Technology - $61.9 million for the Air Force research and development program, and an increase of $7 million specifically for the Space Vehicles Directorate at Kirtland Air Force Base.
Procured one CV-22 Osprey for Air Force attrition reserve - The New Mexico Air National Guard trains mission-ready Special Operations and Combat Search and Rescue crews on CV-22s together with the 58th Special Operations Wing at Kirtland Air Force Base.
Technology transfer - $7.6 million for technology transfer at Air Force facilities. The bill also includes a provision to encourage the Department of Energy’s Office of Technology Transitions to treat the applied research offices equitably when utilizing funds to assist the transfer of federally funded research into the commercial sector, and to report to Congress on its progress.
Advanced Weapons Technology - $35.2 million for the Kirtland-based Counter-Electronics High Powered Microwave Advanced Missile Project (CHAMP). CHAMP is developing an “electromagnetic pulse weapon” that can cut off power to a specific target without jeopardizing an entire electric grid. The New Mexico delegation provided an increase of $5 million specifically to move CHAMP beyond research and development and into production. This funding follows an increase of $10 million in fiscal year 2015 for the same purpose. Employment of this weapon will give DOD a non-kinetic capability to take out enemy targets without risking civilian lives or putting our troops in direct harm.
DOD STARBASE youth education program - $25 million for the DOD-run science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education program, including La Luz Academy at Kirtland.
PARKS, PUBLIC LANDS AND TRIBAL SERVICES
Udall is the lead Democrat on the Appropriations Subcommittee for Interior, Environment and Related Agencies, and worked to include several New Mexico priorities in the bill.
Valles Caldera National Preserve/Manhattan Project National Historical Park – The agreement includes $16 million to support new park units nationwide, including $3.34 million in base funding for the Valles Caldera National Preserve to support its transfer to the National Park Service — equal to the fiscal year 2015 budget — and $180,000 in new funding to operate the Manhattan Project National Historical Park. The bill also includes $1.5 million to fund restoration projects at new park units, including Valles Caldera.
Bandelier National Monument - $5.1 million for construction on electrical systems.
Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge - $3.5 million for the first of two years of funding needed to complete the refuge.
Pecos National Historical Park - $386,000 for land acquisition.
Continental Divide National Scenic Trail - $2.3 million for land acquisition. The property near Pie Town, N.M., will allow the CDT to be relocated from a highway shoulder to a safer and more scenic route through the Sawtooth Mountains.
Rio Grande del Norte National Monument - $2.9 million for land acquisition. Acquisition of this property helps bring the new national monument closer to completion.
National Landscape Conservation System – The bill includes a $5 million increase to initiate foundational efforts at newly designated monuments, such as Rio Grande del Norte and Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks.
Land Grants and Acequias - The bill notes the importance of community land grants, acequias and ditches in the Southwest, and requests recognition of such traditional uses during land-use planning.
Institute of American Indian and Alaska Native Culture and Arts Development (IAIA) - $11.619 million.
Indian Land and Water Claims Settlements - The bill provides $49.4 million for Indian Water Rights Settlements across the nation, including for the Taos Pueblo Water Rights Settlement, the Aamodt Litigation Settlement, and the Navajo-Gallup Project.
Tribal broadband funds - $2 million in new funding to support a tribal broadband initiative for Bureau of Indian Education schools.
U.S. Geological Service U.S.-Mexico Transboundary Aquifer Assessment - $1 million for border state aquifer assessments, including work by the Water Resources Research Institute at New Mexico State University.
Bureau of Indian Affairs - The bill provides $2.796 billion nationwide, a $194 million increase. It includes a particular focus on Indian education and provides a $64 million increase for school construction and repair needs. The bill fully funds contract support costs at $277 million as required by the U.S. Supreme Court to be paid to Tribes that exercise self-determination and operate federal programs on their own behalf.
CHILDCARE AND EDUCATION
Head Start and childcare – The bill boosts Head Start funding by $570 million, bringing total Head Start funding available to communities in New Mexico and nationwide to $9.2 billion. It also increases funding for Early Head Start by $135 million and the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) program by $326 million. These programs provide childcare and quality early childhood education to more than 24,000 New Mexico kids.
Indian Education grants from the Department of Education - $40 million increase to $143.9 million to improve education opportunities for Native children from preschool through high school.
TRIO Student Support Services – $900 million for TRIO grants to support low-income and first-generation college students, a $60 million increase. Last year, 13 New Mexico colleges received TRIO grants totaling $3.3 million, and this funding boost will allow the program to expand.
Native language preservation - $12 million for the Esther Martinez language preservation program, including $4 million for intensive programs such as language nests and survival schools.
Hispanic-Serving Institutions - $7 million increase to $107.7 million for Hispanic-Serving Institutions, which include 18 colleges and universities in New Mexico.
DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS (VA)
The bill includes $163 billion in total funding for the VA — a record high that includes a $2.5 billion increase to improve patient access to care and expand services. Overall VA funding will provide for health care, benefits claims processing, medical and prosthetic research, information technology and VA National Cemeteries.
Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry – The bill includes language Udall authored to require the VA to report on the status and findings of its registry of service members and veterans who were exposed to toxic chemicals and fumes from open-air burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Innovative assistive technology - The bill includes language Udall authored to recognize the potential 3D printing and other technological advances have to help disabled veterans overcome barriers to engagement, employment and independent living. The VA is urged to begin a pilot program to develop a more innovative and user-friendly process for assistive technology.
WaterSmart Program - $57.98 million nationwide for WaterSmart, which supports local water management projects including watershed management, basin studies and drought planning and response.
Circuit Rider Program - $16.39 million nationwide for the program, which provides funding for technical assistance for the operations of rural water systems throughout New Mexico. Through contracting, the Rural Utilities Service assists rural water systems with day-to-day operational, financial and management problems.
Water and waste disposal grants for Colonias and Native communities - $64 million nationwide. These funds help border communities and Native American communities pay for all or part of the cost of water and waste disposal facilities.
Navajo-Gallup Project - The bill provides $89.6 million through the Bureau of Reclamation for the construction of the Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project and the historic 2010 Navajo Nation Water Rights Settlement Agreement. The project will supply water to the eastern portion of the Navajo Nation, the southwestern portion of the Jicarilla Apache Nation and the city of Gallup, serving the future water needs of approximately 250,000 people.
Aamodt Litigation Settlement - $6 million through the Bureau of Reclamation.
Taos Pueblo Water Rights Settlement - $4.04 million through the Bureau of Reclamation.
BUREAU OF RECLAMATION
The bill includes specific funding for the following Bureau of Reclamation projects in New Mexico:
Carlsbad Project - $4.13 million
Eastern New Mexico Rural Water Supply - $47,000
Middle Rio Grande Project - $23.99 million
Rio Grande Project - $7.4 million
Rio Grande Pueblos Project - $300,000
Tucumcari Project - $26,000
ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS
$1.5 million for the Tribal Partnership Program to allow the Army Corps to work collaboratively with Tribes to study the feasibility of water resource projects, and full funding for operations and maintenance of several New Mexico projects:
Abiquiu Dam - $3.35 million
Cochiti Lake - $3.17 million
Conchas Lake - $2.61 million
Galisteo Dam - $762,000
Jemez Canyon Dam - $1.04 million
Middle Rio Grande Endangered Species Collaborative Program - $2.5 million
Santa Rosa Dam and Lake - $1.89 million
Two Rivers Dam - $1.028 million
Upper Rio Grande Endangered Species Collaborative Program - $1.3 million
Inspection of Completed Environmental Projects, New Mexico - $20,000
Inspection of Completed Works, New Mexico - $650,000
Scheduling Reservoir Operations in New Mexico - $330,000
LAW ENFORCEMENT, PUBLIC SAFETY, AND BORDER ACTIVITIES
Columbus Port of Entry - $85.6 million for construction and acquisition.
Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers (FLETC) - $245 million for FLETCs, including the Artesia Center.
Customs and Border Protection (CBP) - $11.057 billion for CBP, a $385 million boost. This funding will support 21,370 Border Patrol agents — sustaining the increased levels approved in the fiscal year 2010 Border Security Supplemental Appropriations Act — and 23,775 CBP officers currently working at 329 ports of entry nationwide.
Homeland Security grants for local communities – The bill provides $1.507 billion in funding for grants nationwide for border security and emergency preparedness. This includes $467 million for State Homeland Security Grants, including $55 million for Operation Stonegarden; $690 million for Fire and SAFER grants; and $350 million for Emergency Management Performance Grants.
SCIENCE AND SPACE
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) - This bill provides $19.3 billion for NASA, which is a $1.3 billion boost. New Mexico is home to NASA facilities outside Las Cruces. The bill specifically provides $15 million for the Flight Opportunities Program, which funds suborbital flights for research, testing and educational purposes including out of New Mexico’s Spaceport. The bill also provides $40 million for Space Grant, a proven program to help attract and retain students in jobs in the aerospace and high-technology sectors. The bill preserves Senate report language directing NASA to allocate the entire $40 million to consortia-led institutions in each state such as the New Mexico Space Grant Consortium (NMSGC) led by New Mexico State University. NMSGC funds engaging research activities for high school students, including rocket launches from Spaceport.
National Science Foundation (NSF) - The bill allocates $7.46 billion for the NSF, a $119 million increase. The NSF provides grants for basic research at New Mexico’s universities and supports science facilities such as Socorro's Very Large Array, the most advanced radio telescope array on Earth. The bill also includes a provision Udall authored to emphasize the importance of NSF support for radio astronomy and for transitioning older facilities — like the National Solar Observatory telescope in Sunspot — as new facilities become operational.