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House votes for $701 million in border security funding

$70 million in military funding for S. Az in separate bill

The U.S. House of Representatives voted Wednesday to boost spending on border security by $701 million.

The Senate stripped the border enforcement money from a war spending bill last Thursday. After a weeks' pushing by Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations for Border Security Act was passed on a voice vote Wednesday evening.

A separate military appropriations bill, which passed the House 411-6, includes $70.4 million in funds for new military facilities in Southern Arizona, including hangers at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base and Fort Huachuca.

The border bill includes funding for:

  • 1,200 additional Border Patrol agents.
  • 500 more Customs and Border Protection officers at ports.
  • Improved tactical communications along the Southwestern border.
  • Three permanent Border Patrol forward operating bases.
  • $50 million for Operation Stonegarden grants to support local law enforcement on the border.
  • Two additional unmanned aircraft systems.
  • $30 million for Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
  • $201 million for the Department of Justice to hire more agents for the Department of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the FBI and to hire additional prosecutors.

The House had originally passed the border funding earlier this month, 239-182.

Giffords worked with Rep. David Price of North Carolina, chairman of the Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee, to introduce emergency appropriation legislation solely for border security.

Giffords thanked Price for "standing up against the narco-terrorists and showing Americans that this Congress is serious about border security" in a speech to the House on Wednesday.

"Residents in my district are fed-up. They are tired of the break-ins, thefts, threats of violence and trash caused by the smuggling of drugs and people across their land every day," Giffords said.

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The bill met with qualified approval from John Ellinwood, spokesman for Jesse Kelly, who's seeking the Republican nomination to run against the incumbent Democrat.

"Whatever they can do to get the border secure is great," he said. "These types of bills happen every election cycle. Giffords has been in office since 2006; why didn't they pass this bill four years ago? Why not two years ago?"

After the House approved the border funding, Giffords noted that some senators said they voted against the money last week because it was attached to an emergency appropriations bill that provided $32.8 billion for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

"Those senators said unrelated domestic programs should not be attached to funding for these two critical military operations," Giffords said. "I disagreed with that reasoning. To me national security means border security."

The bill will return to the Senate for consideration.

Military projects

The 2011 military construction appropriation passed Wednesday includes $70.4 million for seven Southern Arizona projects.

The largest single local item in the bill is $25 million for a hanger facility at the "Boneyard" at Davis-Monthan. The facility will allow the 309th Aircraft Maintenance and Regeneration Group to perform its work on larger aircraft year-round without impacts from high temperatures, lightning or wind.

The hanger will support maintenance and repair of Air Force regeneration and reclamation of C-130, KC-135 and P-3 aircraft. The planes will be sold to foreign countries, returned to Department of Defense service or used by other federal and state agencies. The hanger will have a clearance height of 52 feet and be large enough to house two KC-135 planes.

The other projects:

  • Fort Huachuca Reaper Launch and Recovery hanger: $11 million – Will provide a hanger and maintenance shops for the Arizona Air National Guard's 214th Recon Group. The facility will support a Predator unit mission of four unmanned aerial systems scheduled to arrive in 2010. Will include hangar space configured to adapt to multiple aircraft types and maintenance shops as well as communications equipment and video-link capabilities.
  • Davis-Monthan HC-130 aerial cargo facility: $10.7 million – Will provide space to process, maintain and store HC-130J aerial cargo for combat search and rescue assets.
  • Davis-Monthan HC-130J parts store: $8.2 million – Will provide space to maintain and store parts and assemblies necessary to maintain the HC-130J aircraft.
  • Marana Parachute Training Facility: $6.25 million – To build a 19,000-square-foot Special Operations Command parachute training and operations facility. The building will support ongoing operations and international commitments for jump training.
  • Davis-Monthan HC-130 aircraft ground equipment maintenance facility: $4.6 million – Will provide space to perform equipment maintenance in support of combat search and rescue missions.
  • Air National Guard, Davis-Monthan Predator facility: $4.65 million – Will expand existing facilities for an Active Duty Associate wing to be based alongside the Arizona Air National Guard's 214th Recon Group in Tucson at D-M. This effort is designed to fully integrate the Air Guard with the Active Duty Air Force.
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