Barksdale, Fort Polk score big budget wins in the U.S. House passed defense spending bill

Greg Hilburn
Shreveport Times
The change of command ceremony of U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Andrew Gebara who assumes command of Eighth Air Force and the Joint-Global Strike Operations Center from Lt. Gen. Mark Weatherington at Barksdale AFB, Aug. 16, 2021.

Louisiana military installations led by Barksdale Air Fore Base and Fort Polk are set to secure about $1 billion in construction funding in the defense spending bill passed by the U.S. House this week that also includes a 2.7% raise for all service members.

"When it was all said and done Louisiana has more military construction dollars than anywhere else in the world," said U.S. Rep. Mike Johnson, R-Benton, Louisiana's only representative on the House Armed Services Committee, in an interview with USA Today Network.

Both Barksdale and Fort Polk are in Johnson's 4th Congressional District, but the annual National Defense Authorization Act includes funding for U.S. military installations throughout Louisiana.

It also includes about $14 million for a new barracks at Camp Minden, a major operations center and training facility for the Louisiana National Guard.

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"It's huge for us; a game-changer," said Louisiana National Guard Maj. Gen. Keith Waddell. "It's been my No. 1 unfunded priority." 

The bipartisan, $770 billion bill is expected to clear the U.S. Senate this week before being signed by President Joe Biden.

"My excitement level about this bill is over the moon," Johnson said. "It funds all of the priorities we sought."

Military spending accounts for $9.64 billion of annual economic activity in the state, according to the most recent study released last month by the Louisiana Economic Development Department and the Louisiana Military Advisory Council.

It shows the military accounts for 77,000 jobs — one of every 26 jobs in Louisiana — and makes up 2.4% of the state's gross domestic product, as well as contributing $349.7 million in local and state taxes.

Following are among the key priorities for Louisiana in the National Defense Authorization Act:

Barksdale Air Force Base

► $40 million for construction of a weapons generation facility: This first installment to construct a weapons generation facility to ensure Barksdale's B-52s can be loaded with their nuclear payloads at Barksdale rather than at Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota.

► $36 million for the construction of a new gate and entrance complex that will accommodate traffic from the newly constructed Interstate 20/I-220 interchange.

Fort Polk and Joint Readiness Training Center

► $56 million for construction of a new barracks.

► $55 million for construction of a new joint operations center, which serves as the command and control hub for training rotations. The current facility was originally built in the early 1960s as a classroom and is inadequate to meet the training demands of the U.S. Army.

Camp Minden

► $13.8 million for the construction of a new barracks at the Louisiana National Guard training facility.

Air Force B-52 Program (Barksdale)

► $660.8 million for B-52 sustainment, modernization, operations and maintenance.

Air Force Air-Launched Cruise Missile

► $46.8 million for the development of a new air-launched cruise missile that will ensure the B-52 remains a viable nuclear deterrent and will keep the aircraft flying.

Nuclear command modernization (Barksdale)

► $26.5 million to upgrade the decades-old systems used to communicate with and direct nuclear bombers like the ones stationed at Barksdale.

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Greg Hilburn covers state politics for the USA TODAY Network of Louisiana. Follow him on Twitter @GregHilburn1.