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Construction funding, policies, F-15E Strike Eagles backed in defense plan

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(The Center Square) – A defense spending bill that cleared the U.S. Senate this week includes numerous provisions that will benefit North Carolina, from nearly $400 million for construction at military bases to policies to protect service members.

The Senate approved the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2024 on Thursday with a vote of 86-11 following a floor debate to consider 900 amendments, 121 of which were adopted.

The bill, S2226, includes a 5.2% pay raise for service members, $398.9 million in construction for North Carolina military bases, and a provision added by Sen. Ted Budd, R-NC, to preserve the F-15E Strike Eagles stationed at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base. Budd also co-authored an amendment designed to protect service members from debt collector harassment.

The legislation must be reconciled with a House version of the bill that cleared the House Armed Services Committee 58-1 in June, before it heads to President Joe Biden for approval.

“In order to be a strong nation, we need a strong military. The Senate’s FY 2024 NDAA provides significant support to North Carolina’s service members, their families, and our military installations,” Budd said. “At the same time, it saves F-15E fighters from divestment by the Air Force, which not only bolsters North Carolina’s Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, but maintains one of our country’s most reliable fighter aircraft for the remainder of this decade.”

S2226’s $886 billion in spending – about $2 billion more than the White House proposed – includes $165 million for the Army’s Fort Liberty, formerly known as Fort Bragg, for new barracks and other improvements, and $110 million for the Marine Corps’ Camp Lejeune for facility and maintenance work. Another $109.5 million would go to Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point for similar construction, while $12 million would help complete the Army Reserve Center in Asheville and $2.2 million would go toward the National Guard’s Aviation Support Facility in Salisbury.

In addition, the Senate legislation advocates against reductions to special operations force structure that could negatively impact communities around Fort Liberty and Camp Lejeune.

Budd and U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., also supported a successful amendment that would require review before China, Iran, North Korea or Russia could purchase agricultural land in the U.S. The provision, which they’ve supported in standalone legislation, stems from concerns about companies in countries considered adversaries that have purchased or attempted to purchase land near military bases in other states, such as North Dakota and Texas.

Other spending aims to deter China and Russia through investments to modernize the country’s nuclear arsenal, procure new submarines, develop sea launched missiles, and other initiatives.

“As the United States continues to face growing threats from Russia and China, this bipartisan legislation is a win for North Carolina service members and their families,” Tillis said. “I’m proud this NDAA also includes hundreds of millions of dollars for North Carolina’s military installations, in addition to the more than $3 billion in funding I’ve helped secured since I was elected.”

The Center Square was unsuccessful, by time of this publication, getting responses from North Carolina Defense Alliance; Association of Defense Communities; the North Carolina Military Affairs Commission; the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs; and the North Carolina Military Business Center. The latter declined comment citing its position as a state agency.

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