McMorris Rodgers Announces Funding for Rescue Flight Helicopters in Defense Authorization Bill

(Washington, D.C.)  Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers today announced that the House Armed Services Committee passed the Fiscal Year 2008 National Defense Authorization Act which includes specific language to protect and fund the 36th Rescue Flight Helicopters at Fairchild Air Force Base. McMorris Rodgers, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, visited the unit in April and has been a vocal advocate for the helicopters remaining at Fairchild.

“I am pleased that my colleagues on the House Armed Services Committee have recognized the critical role of these helicopters and are joining with me to protect them,” said McMorris Rodgers. “These helicopters are necessary in order to train airmen at the Survival School and are the only helicopters in the region with unique search and rescue capabilities. This is the first step in the legislative process to ensure the helicopters receive the necessary funds to remain at Fairchild.”

Title III, Section 348 of the National Defense Authorization Act states that “The Secretary of the Defense shall ensure that no action is taken to deactivate the Air Force unit known as the 36th Rescue Flight that is assigned to Fairchild Air Force Base in Spokane, Washington, or to reassign or reorganize any of the search and rescue capabilities of that unit.” This bill also calls for the restoration of approximately $4 million in funding.

The 36th Rescue Flight has received overwhelming support from the Northwest Congressional Delegation and the Spokane community. More than 500 letters from groups and individuals in Eastern Washington were sent earlier this year to the Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Armed Services Community emphasizing the important role of the helicopters within the community.

“As a region we took a fifty person delegation to Washington DC in April to advocate for, among other projects and issues, the survival helicopters,” said Rich Hadley, CEO/President, Greater Spokane Incorporated. “We continue to advocate for the survival helicopter mission as it is a critical mission of the Fairchild Air Force Base 36th Rescue Flight and Survival School.”

The bill also authorized $6.2 million in funding for the Physiological Training Facility at Fairchild. The funding will allow for the construction of a new 9,957 square foot facility to house the Physiological Training Unit, which will include a hypobaric altitude chamber, life support area, instructor offices and classrooms for academic training. The unit is currently housed in a converted 1943 warehouse that has inadequate ventilation, utility, electrical and plumbing systems.

The National Defense Authorization Act authorizes $504 billion in budget authority for the Department of Defense (DoD) and the national security programs of the Department of Energy. Additionally, the legislation authorizes $142 billion in supplemental funding to support current operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere in the Global War on Terrorism.

Additional highlights of the bill include:

  • A 3.5% pay raise for all members of the armed forces in 2008 and guaranteed pay raises in 2009, 2010 and 2011 to reduce the military-civilian pay disparity.
  • Additional funding for force protection needs in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, including $4.1 billion for state-of-the-art Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles.
  • Additional increases of 13,000 Army and 9,000 Marine Corps active duty personnel to sustain our required missions.
  • An additional $1 billion for National Guard equipment.
  • Extends the prohibition the committee enacted last year on increases to TRICARE Prime and TRICARE Standard.
  • Extends the prohibition the committee enacted last year on retail pharmacy cost share increases.
  • Provides $250 million to address training shortfalls throughout the services and adds $165 million for depot maintenance.

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