House passes defense spending bill with big money for Barksdale AFB

House passes defense spending bill with big money for Barksdale AFB

WASHINGTON, D.C. (KSLA) - Planned improvements to Barksdale Air Force Base got a big boost Thursday when the U.S. House of Representatives passed a defense spending bill that sets aside money for major repairs.

The National Defense Authorization Act, which passed in a vote of 359-54, includes $12.25 million for a new entrance gate to BAFB from I-20 near Louisiana Downs.

Base officials and lawmakers say the gate is needed because of plans to build a new facility on the base to store nuclear weapons. The project has already received funding from the State, Bossier Parish, and Bossier City.

Funding for the project was cut from the Senate's version of the bill, but Rep. Ralph Abraham, R-Monroe, and other Louisiana lawmakers pushed for it to remain.

"Louisiana's military bases play a critical role in the national defense strategy of the United States," said Abraham, who sits on the House Armed Services Committee.

"I'm just so proud we could secure tens of millions of dollars, literally, to enhanced these bases, support them, support our troops to keep our country safe."

The bill also provides $295 million to upgrade B-52 bombers with new engines, radars, and communication technology.

Lawmakers believe these upgrades, along with the new weapons storage facility, will make Barksdale operations more efficient.

"Right now if our B-52s load up a particular bomb, they have to go all the way to North Dakota to get it," explained Abraham. "That doesn't make any sense economically and certainly not on our readiness standpoint."

In addition to the upgrades and improvements, the bill also includes a 2.6 percent pay raise for the military.

The Senate is expected to vote on the bill within the next two weeks, according to lawmakers.

Copyright 2018 KSLA. All rights reserved.