Midstate could benefit from defense bill

If the Senate approves a defense spending bill this week, the Middle Georgia military community could receive some gifts courtesy of Georgia’s senior senator.

Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., proposed an earmark to the bill for a signal processor that would be added to submarines to counter advances in radar systems. Assuming the funding request is granted, the work order would commission the Mercer Engineering Research Center on a $3 million project.

The project is just one of many items of interest buried in the 2010 Senate Defense Appropriations bill that could affect work loads assigned to Robins Air Force Base and the surrounding area.

Also included in the bill is added funding for a new engine for the Joint Surveillance and Target Attack Radar System aircraft, or J-STARS. By a voice vote, the Senate adopted an Chambliss-sponsored “sense of the Senate” amendment that approved the Obama administration’s proposal for $221 million toward procuring and testing a new J-STARS engine. The existing engine was first produced in the 1960s.

“Re-engining Joint STARS will pay for itself by 2017 due to reduced operations, sustainment, and fuel costs,” the amendment reads. The entire Air Force J-STARS fleet operates from Robins Air Force Base.

Funding in the final 2010 Defense budget now appears certain for the new J-STARS engine. The House spending bill also approved funding for the program.

An amendment offered by Sen. John McCain, R.-Ariz., that would scrap $2.5 billion for 10 C-17s from the appropriations bill — aircraft that the Obama administration did not request — was defeated on the Senate floor Thursday.

Much of the Air Force’s C-17 fleet undergoes maintenance procedures at Robins Air Force Base.

Hopes that Congress would maintain the C-130 Avionics Modernization Program appear dim at best.

The Obama administration has proposed deep cuts in the program, which was to be installed into the aircraft at Robins Air Force Base, and the Senate appears likely to cut as much as $200 million from the program.

Chambliss wrote two earmarks into the appropriations bill, according to Taxpayers for Common Sense, a Washington, D.C.-based watchdog group. He joined with Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., on several other earmarks.

Neither Chambliss nor Isakson submitted a large number of earmarks, at least in comparison to their colleagues. According to Taxpayers for Common Sense, Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, landed 35 earmarks totaling $206.5 million on the spending bill.

Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., inserted 48 earmarks totaling $216 million.

Inouye and Cochran are the chairman and vice chairman, respectively, on the Senate Appropriations Committee.

To contact writer Thomas L. Day, call 744-4489.