Separate versions of the National Defense Authorization Act that recently passed the House and previously passed the Senate both include $24.8 million to install a hydrant fuel system at Ellsworth Air Force Base near Rapid City.
The Department of Defense submitted a justification report to Congress that says a new hydrant fuel system is needed to serve the base’s north-ramp hangars and Live Ordnance Loading Area and to serve as a backup for another hydrant fuel system already installed at the base.
“Adequate fuel supply is required to expedite safe and efficient generation of aircraft sorties,” the justification document says.
The base is currently home to B-1 bombers and was recently selected to receive the first B-21 bombers when those planes, which are under development, begin flying sometime in the 2020s.
The new hydrant fuel system at Ellsworth, if authorized by Congress, is scheduled to be under construction by 2020 and to be completed by 2022.
The justification document says the only backup for an existing hydrant fuel system at Ellsworth is a collection of three antiquated systems that are 60 or more years old.
“These facilities are in need of constant maintenance to keep them operational,” the document says of the older backup systems, “and are in violation of airfield safety criteria being susceptible to damage by aircraft.”
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The new system would include components such as storage tanks, catwalks, stairs, pump houses, a control room and piping.
Authorization for the project is in separate NDAA bills that were passed July 12 by the House and June 27 by the Senate. A conference committee will attempt to iron out the differences in the bills, including a $17 billion gap between the $750 billion in spending authorized by the Senate bill and the $733 billion authorized by the House bill.
The vote on the Senate bill was 86-8, including a “yes” vote from Sen. John Thune, R-S.D. The state’s other senator, Mike Rounds, also a Republican, did not vote. He announced the prior week that he was traveling with his wife, Jean, to Rochester, Minnesota, where she was scheduled to begin treatment for cancer at The Mayo Clinic.
The vote on the House bill was 220-197. All the Republicans who voted on the bill voted “no,” including Rep. Dusty Johnson, R-S.D.
In a Journal interview, Johnson said the version of the bill in the Democratic-controlled House was a “partisan vehicle” with “lots of policy statements in there that don’t make sense."
A report in The Hill said the House bill included amendments to block emergency arms sales to Saudi Arabia, end U.S. military support to the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, repeal a 2002 authorization for the use of military force, give federal employees 12 weeks of paid family leave, prohibit military parades for political purposes and ban Pentagon funds from being used at Trump-owned properties. The underlying bill included provisions preventing President Trump from using Pentagon funds for a border wall, blocking the deployment of a low-yield nuclear warhead and preventing new transfers to the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, The Hill reported.
Johnson said the House bill was dead on arrival in the Senate. He expects the conference committee’s bill to be better and to include the Ellsworth money.
“I’m going to get an opportunity to vote for the NDAA,” Johnson said.
Contact Seth Tupper at firstname.lastname@example.org