Leader Blues

Monday, June 04, 2007

TOP STORY >>Base gets support in Congress

By JOHN HOFHEIMER
Leader senior staff writer

The Jacksonville-Little Rock Air Force Base Joint Education Center moved closer to reality this week when the Senate Armed Services Committee forwarded to the full Senate a 2008 defense authorization bill that included $9.8 million for the militaryís share of the construction, according to Arkansasí Senators Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor.

The defense authorization bill passed the House on May 17. The Senate version also includes a similar amount to repair the baseís aging runways.

The city of Jacksonville has set aside $5 million for its share for the Senate.

The joint education center, to be constructed on the civilian side of the base gate, is authorized as a multi-purpose educational facility that meets Air Force standards for distance learning, video teleconferencing and seminar needs. Currently, the Education Center is housed in two inadequate converted dormitories that provide a limited scope of academic offerings due to space constraints and distance from the base library.

Jacksonville officials and leaders view the center as part of a strategy to provide college education for local residents.
It will include classes affiliated with ASU-Beebe and other schools. ďAs a member of the Armed Services Committee, I take my responsibility to craft this legislation very seriously. Arkansasí military installations, universities and businesses play a leading role in building our nationís defense and are therefore highlighted in this bill.Ē Pryor said.

The Senate proposal includes another $9.8 million to patch base runways worn by the relentless take-offs and landings at the nationís premiere C-130 center.

Former Base Commander Gen. Kip Self lobbied the congressional delegation for money to repair the runways. The entire bill is set for consideration by full Senate later this month and then heads to the House-Senate Joint Committee. Both the house and senate versions include 3.5 percent pay raises for uniformed personnel.

The fiscal year 2008 funding bill still needs Congressí approval.