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LoBiondo: Congress Set to OK More Than $21 Million for 177th, Cape May CG Boat Station

By Herald Staff

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Rep. Frank A. LoBiondo (R-2nd), a member of the House Armed Services Committee, in a release applauded the House passage of H.R. 2638 which includes $8.4 million for the 177th Air National Guard Fighter Wing for the new construction of Phase I of a two phase Operations and Training Facility. LoBiondo had previously secured the necessary authorization for the new Operations and Training Facility within the FY 2009 National Defense Authorization Act, which passed the House in May.
“This federal funding is absolutely critical in expanding the facilities at the 177th Fighter Wing, which is tasked with arguably the most important mission in protecting the skies over New York City to Washington, D.C. and beyond,” said LoBiondo. “I will continue to work with the men and women at the 177th and remain committed to ensuring they have all the resources they need to successfully complete their mission.”
The new facility will house key wing administrative functions, including offices for the wing commander and staff; environmental manager; public affairs; wing safety; support group commander and staff; counseling and family support services. It will also be the location for the new dining facility, honor guard and fitness areas.
Additionally, the bill includes $13 million to construct a new U.S. Coast Guard boat station in Cape May, complete with a new state of the art facility which will house staff and will include garage space to store and overhaul small boats and aids to navigation.
More than 50 years old, the current boat station was never intended to accommodate the electronics and service members needed to carry out the missions Boat Station Cape May is tasked. LoBiondo and Admiral Thad Allen, the Commandant of the USCG, toured the facility and discussed its condition in April 2008.
“For decades Boat Station Cape May has needed an upgrade to its facility to help guarantee the success of its many crucial missions including port security, search and rescue, fisheries safety, and drug interdiction. This funding will allow for major improvements to benefit the USCG personnel at the boat station, and will go along way to improve the safety and security of our waterways in South Jersey,” added LoBiondo, a member of the House Coast Guard & Maritime Transportation Subcommittee.
The bill also provides $750,000 for Atlantic County to consolidate and improve the county’s disparate emergency dispatch and management centers into a single existing building able to withstand wind storm and other natural hazards.
“This funding will enhance the safety of Atlantic County residents in the event of an emergency,” said Atlantic County Executive Dennis Levinson. “I thank Congressman LoBiondo for his hard work and dedication to the residents of our county”.
Finally, the bill includes $47.6 billion to fund the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) – a $4.5 billion increase from fiscal year 2008. Specifically, the VA provisions include:
• $3.8 billion for specialty mental health care and $584 million for substance abuse programs;
• $1.6 billion to provide veterans with appropriate prosthetic options for combat wounds. This $250 million increase from fiscal year 2008’s allocation recognizes recent advances in prosthetic technology;
• $200 million, not requested by the President or funded in fiscal year 2008, for fee-based services to improve access to care where veteran facilities are not readily available;
• $100 million above the President’s request to increase the beneficiary travel reimbursement rate from 28.5 cents per mile to 41.5 cents per mile. This was a key issue for South Jersey veterans traveling to VA Medical Centers in Wilmington or Philadelphia for specialized treatment;
• $87.8 million for additional personnel for oversight activities at the VA Inspector General’s office. Representing a $7.3 million increase from fiscal year 2008, the additional support will go towards inspections of VA Medical Centers and community-based outpatient clinics, such as those in Ventnor, Cape May, Sewell and Vineland.
“This legislation goes a long way towards improving medical services and access for our veterans, particularly in the areas of mental health and substance abuse. However, more can and must be done,” concluded LoBiondo. “I am especially pleased by the increased travel reimbursements for South Jersey veterans. With the rising costs of fuel and time required to travel out-of-state for specialized treatment at VA medical centers, South Jersey veterans rightly deserve a fair reimbursement for their inconvenience.”
Due to the Democrat Congress’ decision to forgo the annual appropriations process, the projects were included as part of the continuing resolution that would fund the U.S. government until March 2009. The federal government’s fiscal year is set to expire at midnight on Tuesday, Sept. 30, 2008. The bill moves to the Senate where it is expected to pass this week and be sent to the President.

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