Defense bill includes projects in Maine

Posted Sept. 19, 2008, at 10:09 p.m.

WASHINGTON — The Senate this week approved a $612.5 billion defense budget for 2009 that includes provisions which would fund defense programs based in Maine and support the work of several Maine companies.

The bill, passed Wednesday night, “includes a number of provisions that recognize the value of Maine’s defense industry to our national security, as well as key shipbuilding provisions that are critical to Bath Iron Works, the Navy, and our overall national security,” Republican Sen. Susan Collins, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in a statement.

The House version of the bill, passed last May, allocates $531.4 billion to national security programs in the 2009 fiscal year budget, which starts Oct. 1.

Members of a conference committee will be appointed shortly to work out the differences between the two bills before sending the revised version to the Senate and House for a final vote.

“With the limited amount of time remaining in the Congress, this is a must-pass bill, and I am pleased that we’re able to move this priority legislation through the Senate,” Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe said in a press release.

The Senate bill includes $20 million for the construction of a training facility at the Bangor Armed Forces Reserve Center and more than $9 million for Maine’s Army National Guard for a medical data system used in the field in Iraq that allows for real-time data management and analysis through handheld devices. The system was developed by Global Relief Technologies in Kennebunk and Orono.

Another $3 million would go to the development of an infrared detection system designed by Orono Spectral Solutions in Orono and $3 million to develop software that will allow for the secure transmission of data developed by Angel Secure Networks Inc., based in Orono.

The University of Maine would receive $4.5 million for several national security research and development programs, including lightweight tent insert panels to provide protection to troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Collins proposed several provisions that were included in the bill, such as $2.55 billion to fund several major military projects, including the building of destroyers and combat ships at Bath Iron Works.

“I am particularly pleased that the final Senate bill contains my request to include $20.6 million for a new drydock support facility at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery,” she said.

“As most of these important provisions are not included in the House bill, I will work to ensure that the Senate provisions prevail,” Collins said in a statement. “It is my hope that conference negotiations will begin as soon as possible.” Collins will be a member of the conference committee, according to her spokeswoman, Jen Burita.

Collins also co-authored a bipartisan provision, written with Ben Nelson, D-Neb., and Evan Bayh, D-Ind., to transfer to Iraqis the responsibility to pay for major reconstruction projects, salaries and training of their troops and other expenses.

“There is no reason why the Iraqis cannot bear more of the cost of securing, stabilizing and rebuilding their country,” Collins said in a press release. “No more American funds should be spent for major reconstruction projects.”

The bill also includes a 3.9 percent pay raise for service members and money for improved mental health services for the military.

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