Dick Durbin defends postings for new Air National Guard facilities
U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, on Monday announced $10.2 million in federal funding for a new compound for the 183rd Air National Guard Wing.
The base civil engineering complex will consist of two buildings and will replace seven buildings spread across the base, which is located at Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport in Springfield.
Durbin said he’s proud to lead that spending at a time when the country has relied on the National Guard.
“Last year we saw more Guard activity across the United States than at any time since World War II,” Durbin said, noting that the Guards responded to the pandemic, disasters natural resources and to secure the United States Capitol. on January 6, 2021.
The 17,700 and 6,600 square foot buildings are designed to meet the high operating and maintenance costs of existing buildings. The project contract is expected to be awarded in September, with completion data estimated in September 2024, according to the Illinois National Guard public affairs office.
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“A lot of our facilities are older and not really built for the new, modernized military we have today,” said Maj. Gen. Rich Neely, who added the project was “almost 20 years in the making.” .
Neely is the Adjutant General of Illinois and the Commander of the Illinois National Guard.
Three of the seven buildings slated for replacement do not meet counterterrorism and force protection requirements, according to 183 Wing project documentation.
“We have some really high-tech operations going on here, some of which we can’t talk about,” Neely said. “But we have intelligence, communications, and cyber capability teams here constantly supporting across the state.”
Springfield Mayor Jim Langfelder said the funding was a “recommitment” to the Air National Guard. He added that having the base in Springfield helps boost the local economy.
Funding for the project came through an assignment requested by Durbin. Appropriations are Congressional-directed spending requests and are a way for members of Congress to request funding for projects in their districts.
Facility funding was signed into law by President Joe Biden on March 15 as part of an omnibus appropriations bill passed in early March.
A decade ago, Congress banned the use of appropriations as a funding mechanism after trying to impose new transparency requirements on the process, according to a report by the Congressional Research Service.
The practice was revived about a year ago with new monitoring rules.
“In recent years, Congress has ceded too much of its constitutional spending authority to the executive branch to decide how and where to invest federal taxpayers’ money,” Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, said in a statement. last April when he announced his intention to bring back postings. Leahy is the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
New restrictions include limiting earmarking to 1% of all discretionary spending, a ban on giving funds to for-profit entities, transparency requirements and requiring an audit by the Government Accountability Office.
This year’s appropriation bill is the first to include appropriations since the ban took effect.
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Durbin defended the practice.
“Assignments are an opportunity for members of the Senate and House to identify direct funding for projects in Washington and ensure it gets back to congressional districts and your state,” Durbin said. “It’s very open and transparent from start to finish. We’re not trying to sneak that in.”
Durbin has requested more than $255.3 million this year, according to its website.
The demands included a range of projects such as $52 million to pay for the demolition of federal buildings in downtown Chicago, $45.1 million for the Army Corps of Engineers, $22 million to repair or replace pump stations in Cahokia Heights and $21 million for other sewer projects in Madison and St. Clair counties. All were part of the 2022 omnibus spending package.