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Sen. Thad Cochran: FY17 Omnibus bill...

Sen. Thad Cochran: FY17 Omnibus bill benefits Jackson metro, Mississippi

By: Magnolia Tribune - May 5, 2017



WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, today announced provisions in the FY2017 omnibus appropriations bill of benefit to the Mississippi and the Jackson metropolitan region.
Cochran was instrumental in writing the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2017 (HR.244), which is legislation to complete the 11 remaining appropriations bills.  The Senate approved the measure on a 79-18 vote, clearing the way for it to be signed into law.
“The completion of the 2017 appropriations process is good for the American people.  It will allow funding to be directed to current challenges and priorities for the country.  This bipartisan agreement makes program rescissions and consolidations that permitted us to direct resources to areas of greater need, including national defense and infrastructure,” Cochran said.
Overall, the FY2017 omnibus appropriations measure provides significant additional funding for national defense and border enhancement.  It also contains more than 150 rescissions of funding, program terminations or program consolidations across the federal government, totaling more than $11.427 billion.
The completion of the legislation, which President Trump is expected to sign, would direct funding to Mississippi related to national defense work conducted around the state, flood control projects, and programs to support education, research and other priorities.
The University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC) will continue to benefit from increased funding provided for the National Institutes of Health (NIH).  In particular, Congress provided a $2 billion increase for NIH in FY2017, including funding for the National Institutes of Health’s Institutional Development Award (IDeA) Program and the National Institute of Aging’s  Alzheimer’s research program.
Notably, the FY2017 omnibus includes $95.1 million for flood control projects in the Yazoo basin, an area covering more than 4,000 square miles, and other tributary basins which were either underfunded or not included in President Obama’s last budget request.  The Corps of Engineers can utilize this funding on the Delta Headwaters, Upper Yazoo, Big Sunflower River, and Yazoo Backwater Area projects.  Flooding from this basin has been a persistent problem for the Vicksburg area.
The omnibus funding for the Army Corps of Engineers Civil Works Program builds on the disaster relief funding Cochran helped secure in December to address flood damage in Mississippi and other states in the Lower Mississippi River Delta.
The following are a few of the provisions within the FY2017 appropriations bill of interest to the Jackson metropolitan region and the state:
National Institutes of Health’s Institutional Development Award (IDeA) Program – $333.4 million, a $12.5 million increase over the FY2016 level, for the National Institutes of Health’s IDeA program, which supports biomedical research in states that are historically underutilized for NIH research. Mississippi is among 23 states currently eligible for IDeA grant awards.
·        Alzheimer’s Research – $1.39 billion for Alzheimer’s research, an increase of $400 million over the FY2016 level, at the NIH National Institute on Aging. The MIND Center at the University of Mississippi Medical Center is a leader in Alzheimer’s research.
Natchez National Historic Park Expansion – Language is included to expand the Natchez National Historic Park.  The language authorizes the National Park Service to acquire by donation or purchase from willing sellers, any lands at the site of the historic Forks of the Road Slave Market to include within the boundaries of the Natchez National Historic Park.
Corporation for National and Community Service – $30 million for the National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC), level with FY2016 funding. The NCCC maintains a campus in Vicksburg.
·        State Commissions – $16.5 million, a $500,000 increase above FY2016. 
·        AmeriCorps State and National Grants – $386 million, level with FY2016.  These grants benefit the state of Mississippi.  Explanatory Statement included a $7.5 million set-aside to benefit State Commissions, such as Volunteer Mississippi, and increase the capacity of local current and potential AmeriCorps programs in underserved areas.
Army Corps of Engineers Mississippi River and Tributaries (MR&T) Project – $362 million for the MR&T project, $17 million above FY2016 and $140 million above President Obama’s FY2017 budget request.  (This funding is in addition to $290.7 million for MR&T in the continuing resolution enacted in December.  Cochran worked to secure that disaster relief funding for the Army Corps of Engineers to address emergency repair work caused by Mississippi River flooding in January 2016.)
·        Additional Funding for Flood Control – $95.1 million, not included in the budget request, for flood control projects in the Yazoo basin and other tributary basins which were either underfunded or not included in President Obama’s budget request for Delta Headwaters, Upper Yazoo, Big Sunflower River and Yazoo Backwater Area projects.
·        Additional Funding for Other Authorized Corps Activities – $41 million, not requested in the budget request, for the Corps to perform various authorized Corps functions, such as operating and maintaining the Jesse Brent Lower Mississippi River Museum in Vicksburg, and allowing the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks to manage 14,910 acres of Wildlife Management Areas (WMA) at Lake George, Muscadine and Sky Lake.
·        Additional Funding for Dredging – $3.9 million, not in the budget request, for dredging operations at MR&T ports (Greenville and Vicksburg) which were underfunded in President Obama’s budget request.
Shipbuilding – $21.2 billion for Navy shipbuilding programs, an increase of $2.8 billion, to fund construction of 10 new ships, three more than the last Obama budget request.  Among these new vessels are three DDG-51 destroyers, one LHA amphibious assault ship, and one LPD amphibious transport dock.  The bill also has $150 million to buy long-lead time material for the first Polar Icebreaker Recapitalization ship, which is currently scheduled for award in FY2019. 
·        The bill provides $10.45 billion for the U.S. Coast Guard, $344 million above the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) budget request.  The bill sustains the Coast Guard acquisition schedule for a new cutter fleet, including post-delivery activities for the ninth National Security Cutter (NSC), long-lead-time materials for the tenth NSC, and other vessel and aircraft procurement.
Aircraft Procurement – The agreement funds several unrequested Defense Department requirements through the procurement of multiple air frames, including $187 million not requested in FY2017 for the procurement of 28 Lakota Light Utility Helicopter aircraft, built in Columbus.
·        In addition, the bill provides $114 million, $41 million above the budget request, to procure five MQ-8 Fire Scout aircraft and $444 million for three MQ-4 Triton aircraft, $35 million above the budget request.  The Northrop Grumman Unmanned System Center in Moss Point completes final assembly of the Fire Scout and Triton.
High Performance Computing Modernization Program – $222 million, $45 million above the budget request, for the Army high performance computing modernization program.  These funds are critical for the Vicksburg-based U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC) and would directly impact the Mississippi State University high performance computing program.
·        Overall, the bill supports $1 billion in research and development conducted by the U.S. Army’s ERDC facility.
Army Corps of Engineers – Port and Harbor Maintenance – Within $70 million for 29 authorized Army Corps projects in Mississippi, $8.4 million is provided for dredging and navigation maintenance of seven Mississippi ports:  Biloxi, Gulfport, Pascagoula, Greenville, Claiborne County (Port Gibson), Rosedale, and Vicksburg.
·        Shallow-Draft Harbors and Channels – $49 million, not included in the budget request, for the Army Corps to allocate additional funding for dredging of shallow draft ports and channels (Rosedale Harbor, Claiborne County Port, and Mouth of Yazoo River in Vicksburg).
Environmental Infrastructure – $55 million for the Army Corps to provide design and construction assistance for water and wastewater treatment facilities nationwide.  The Corps could utilize $15.5 million in funds to initiate 11 projects in Mississippi involving sewer system, wastewater treatment and water supply improvements.
Unemployment Insurance Technology Consortia – $50 million, a $15 million increase above FY2016.  The consortia uses funding to streamline the UI process and to develop tools to prevent, collect, and recover improper UI payments.  The Mississippi Department of Employment Security leads a consortia with Maine, Rhode Island and Connecticut and benefits from a portion of this funding.  Language was included in the Explanatory Statement to help address a data handling compliance cost concern for the consortia’s work. 
Strengthening Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) – $244.6 million, level with FY2016.  Mississippi’s HBCUs, including Jackson State University, Tugaloo College, Alcorn State University, Hinds County Community College – Utica, benefit from this program.  
Strengthening Master’s Degree Programs at Historically Black Colleges and Universities – $7.5 million, a $7.5 million increase above FY2016.  Funding will support graduate education opportunities at the master’s level in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Alcorn State University and Mississippi Valley State University will benefit from this funding.
Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation – $46 million, which is aimed at increasing the quality and quantity of students successfully completing Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) baccalaureate degree programs, and increasing the number of students pursuing STEM graduate study programs.  Mississippi research universities, including Jackson State University, will continue to utilize this program.
Job Corps – $1.7 billion, a $15 million increase above FY2016.  Mississippi has Job Corps centers located in Batesville, Gulfport, and Crystal Springs.  Report language was included in the Senate bill regarding the timely restoration of the Gulfport Job Corps Center.
YouthBuild – $84.5 million, level with FY2016.  Mississippi has YouthBuild programs in Gulfport, Jackson, and Greenville. 
Corporation for Public Broadcasting – $445 million, level with FY2016.  $50 million, an increase of $10 million from FY2016 level, for upgrades to the Interconnection System.  This funding will benefit the Mississippi for Public Broadcasting. 
Institute for Museum and Library Services – $231 million, a $1 million increase above FY2016.  Within the IMLS topline number, the Library Service Technology Act Grants to States account was increased $314,000.  The Mississippi Library Commission, University of Southern Mississippi and the Lynn Meadows Discovery Center currently benefit from different IMLS grants.


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Magnolia Tribune

This article was produced by Y'all Politics staff.