June 29, 2018 In The News, Media

U.S. House approves defense bill with $2.3B for purchase of new KC-46 tankers

The House voted 359-49 to pass the Defense Appropriations Act, an annual spending bill that awards billions in funding to the military for personnel and programs.

Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst’s future improved Thursday courtesy of the U.S. House of Representatives’ approval of a $675 billion defense bill that contains funding for new mid-air refueling tankers that are due to be stationed at the New Jersey installation.

The House voted 359-49 to pass the Defense Appropriations Act, an annual spending bill that awards billions in funding to the military for personnel and programs.

The bill, which also calls for a 2.6 percent pay raise for service members, received overwhelming bipartisan support. Nearly all of New Jersey’s 12 member House delegation voted in favor of the measure’s passage, including all three of Burlington County’s representatives: Republicans Tom MacArthur and Frank LoBiondo and Democrat Donald Norcross.

Among the spending included in the bill is $2.3 billion for the purchase of 15 KC-46 tankers, the new state-of-the-art air-refueling jets being built by Boeing to become the new workhorse for the Air Force’s Air Mobility Wing.

At least 24 of the new jets are expected to be delivered to the joint base starting in 2021 and securing the funding for the Air Force to continue procurement of the planes in the upcoming fiscal year was considered a key goal objective in order to ensure the planes arrive at the New Jersey base on time.

MacArthur, R-3rd of Toms River, whose district includes the joint base, called the inclusion of the funding “incredible news” for the region. The base is home to over 40,000 jobs, making it the state’s second largest employer.

“This will help ensure the Joint Base remains one of the nation’s premier air mobility installations, protecting the base and the thousands of jobs that rely on it,” MacArthur said.

“Our national defense and caring for our service members should never be partisan issues. Congress came together to pass this meaningful appropriations bill, which is great news for our military and Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst,” MacArthur added.

Norcross, D-1st of Camden, also cited the funding for the new tanker jets in a statement applauding on the bill’s approval.

“I’ve been long-fighting for ways to safeguard New Jersey’s joint base and the inclusion of $2.5 billion in funds for KC-46 refueling aircraft is a big win for our area. These refueling tankers will bring new jobs and growth to our state and make Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst an indispensable starting point for national security missions on the East Coast,” he said. “Additionally, the bill provides a pay raise for service members, prohibits Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) and supports Israel, our democratic ally in the volatile Middle East. Overall, this bipartisan bill helps keep Americans safe by improving military readiness, securing our local base and strengthening our national defense.”

MacArthur and Norcross both teamed with other members of New Jersey’s congressional delegation to advocate for the joint base’s selection as a preferred site for the new planes, but the on-time delivery of the new jets has become an issue in light of delays and cost overruns involving the development and testing of the first wave of the new aircraft.

Earlier this year Air Force leaders publicly questioned whether Boeing would be able to deliver the first 18 finished KC-46s on schedule by the end of the year.

Read more at The Burlington County Times.