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Congress approves funding for Cannon

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici on Monday said he fully expects President Bush to quickly sign into law a military construction bill that includes $9.5 million to construct a consolidated airmen’s center at Cannon Air Force Base, according to a press release from the senator’s office.

The Senate on Monday gave final congressional approval to the FY2005 Military Construction Appropriations Bill, which contains $108.8 million in construction funds for military installations in New Mexico. Congress also attached a major disaster relief package to this appropriations bill, providing $3 billion in agriculture disaster/drought aid that should be beneficial to New Mexico farmers and ranchers.

With the Senate action today, the bill is cleared for President Bush to sign into law.

“I fully expect President Bush to sign this bill into law as quickly as possible. It is a good bill with all its important base improvement projects, but it is also critical for providing immediate help for those Americans hurt by recent storms and disasters,” Domenici said.

“I am pleased the bill will give the personnel assigned to Cannon a better facility for day-to-day activities,” he added.

U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman also voted for the legislation.

“New Mexico’s Air Force Bases and White Sands Missile Range play a major role in protecting our nation and its interests. Keeping them in top shape is not only a priority for our state, but it is a priority for the entire country as well,” Bingaman said.

The $9.5 million included in the final bill will go toward a consolidated airmen’s center, consisting of a dining hall, postal center, laundry exchange, and troop subsistence issue. The project will offer unaccompanied enlisted personnel a “campus-style” living arrangement, with the closure of streets to accommodate pedestrians, improved parking and new landscaping.

Related to the disaster relief package, Domenici said New Mexico farmers and ranchers should benefit from the $3 billion agriculture disaster/drought aid package added to the military construction bill. Farmers and ranchers may apply for 2003 and 2004 losses, which will help those who have suffered from drought conditions. The agriculture package includes $474 million for livestock assistance and $2.5 billion for crop assistance and insurance, and $20 million for tree assistance.

“There was no question about helping hurricane victims, but it took work to remind everyone that help should also be available to farmers and ranchers who for the past few years have dealt with pervasive and persistent drought conditions and other weather abnormalities,” Domenici said.