WASHINGTON – Senators Richard Burr (R-NC) and Thom Tillis (R-NC) today recapped the significant gains for veterans, military bases and the military organizations that call North Carolina home. Senators Burr and Tillis worked over the year to secure critical military upgrades that will ensure that America and the state remain prepared amid growing terrorist threats, as well as important legislation for veterans who have suffered from exposure to toxic chemicals at both Camp Lejeune and aboard C-123s in Vietnam. Additionally, all North Carolina military installations are scheduled to receive significant infrastructure upgrades as a result of legislation passed in 2015.
"2015 represented a number of legislative gains for both military installations and organizations in North Carolina, as well as national gains for veterans and active duty personnel," said Senator Burr. "Senator Tillis and I worked together to maintain North Carolina's status as a premier military hub by successfully securing additional capabilities at Seymour Johnson Air Base (NC) as well as the preservation of the 440th Airlift Wing at Fort Bragg (NC). It's critical for both North Carolina and the country to continue to support our Special Operations Forces, given the current terrorist threats to both the homeland and our allies overseas. Additionally, I continued to fight for justice on issues such as those affected by the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune (NC) and those vets across the country who were finally granted disability status from illnesses caused by Agent Orange exposure in C-123s planes over Vietnam and afterwards. The Military Sex Offender Reporting Act of 2015 was signed into law this year and closed a loophole that predators have used to evade law enforcement detection for years. 2015 was a productive year for our efforts to make a difference in NC and nationally and I'm proud of our accomplishments."
“Senator Burr and I worked hard this past year to preserve and strengthen North Carolina’s rich military tradition and advocate on behalf of the more than 800,000 North Carolinians who have honorably served our nation,” said Senator Tillis. “We fought against the Pentagon’s strategically flawed attempt to shutter the 440th Airlift Wing at Pope Airfield, and I was proud to join Jerry Ensminger, Senator Burr, and the Camp Lejeune Community Assistance Panel in the successful effort to pressure the VA to provide a level of justice for the victims of toxic water contamination at Camp Lejeune. While 2015 resulted in several key victories for our state’s military and veteran communities, there is still more to be done, and I look forward to continue working with Senator Burr and the rest of the North Carolina Congressional delegation to deliver more results for our great state.”
Camp Lejeune (NC):
In 2015, after sustained Congressional pressure from both Tillis and Burr, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced that victims of Camp Lejeune’s poisoned water who are diagnosed with one or more of eight illnesses will be granted disability status.
Description: The Department of Veterans Affairs initially refused to acknowledge that exposure to toxic chemicals in Camp Lejeune’s water from 1953-1987 caused a number of serious illnesses that in some cases led to death. In 2012, the President signed Senator Burr’s bill to require veterans and their families’ access to VA healthcare if they were stationed at the base and fell ill as a result. In 2015, the VA has expanded presumption to include disability compensation for eight conditions. The reversal demonstrates a major policy shift and a significant victory for victims of toxic exposure for decades at Camp Lejeune.
440th Airlift Wing:
Senators Burr and Tillis have engaged the various military services to ensure North Carolina’s military readiness by maintaining the 440th Airlift Wing. The Senators introduced and passed an amendment requiring the Air Force to validate its plan to close the 440th Airlift Wing with the Army.
Description: The legislation postponed Air Force action to September 30th, 2016 and permits the Air Force to continue only after it validates its plan with the supported commanders. Air Force is implementing a plan to consolidate its C-130 fleet and reduce its overall number of C-130H. Under the current plan, the Air Force wants to deactivate the 440th Airlift Wing, a reserve airlift unit comprised of approximately 1300 personnel stationed at Pope Army Airfield. The Air Force contends it can support Fort Bragg from remote airbases; Army commanders contend it is logistically unfeasible and the 440th fulfills the most pressing training requirements of the global reaction force.
Seymour Johnson Air Force Base KC-46A Tanker:
Seymour Johnson was recently selected as the preferred alternative for the basing of the KC-46A tanker fleet over three other states. Seymour Johnson is currently undergoing an environmental study prior to the decision being final.
Description: Sens. Burr, Tillis and other members of Congress have advocated for Seymour Johnson as an ideal location for this new tanker fleet, which will be the first on the East Coast and an important element of military readiness. This preliminary study is an indicator that the Air Force is serious about basing the tanker fleet at Seymour Johnson.
Military Sex Offender Reporting Act of 2015:
Signed into law in June of 2015.
Description: The Military Sex Offender Reporting Act of 2015 (MSORA), introduced by Senator Burr, requires the Department of Defense to directly report sex offenders convicted or punished under article 47 of the Uniform Military Code of Justice (UCMJ) to the National Sex Offender Registry (NSOR) administered by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Website. Previously, sex offenders convicted under UCMJ were required to self-report to a local jurisdiction upon their release. A Department of Defense Inspector General report issued in 2014 revealed an estimated 242 of 1,312 released sex offenders failed to self-report under the previous law. Given the significant DOD communities in 2015, under these new laws, communities can be fully aware of former offenders in their neighborhood.
C-123 Toxic Exposure to Agent Orange:
Department of Veteran Affairs extended presumptive condition status for Agent Orange exposure to veterans serving on C123K aircraft after Vietnam.
Description: The VA’s reversal of position came after four years of Congressional pressure and multiple medical studies. The latest Institute of Medicine’s report on Post-Vietnam Dioxin Exposure in Agent Orange-Contaminated C-123 Aircraft left the VA with little choice but to begin approving claims after sustained pressure from Congress. Senator Burr first began pressing for answers in 2011.
The Omnibus Bill passed by the House and Senate includes a number of important military construction projects for North Carolina.
- 6 additional F-35B for Marine Corps aviation.
Air Force Procurement
- KC-46A – Tankers to be stationed at Seymour Johnson.
- C-130H Modernization – Air National Guard. Improvements to include 145th Airlift Wing in Charlotte, NC
- Engine Modifications - $33,200,000
- 8 Blade Propellers - $10,000,000
- In flight prop balancing - $1,500,000
- Electronic Propeller Control System - $13,500,000
- Avionics upgrades - $70,000,000
Army National Guard
- Apache Helicopters – Sec. 8120 prohibits any funds from being used to transfer more than the previously agreed upon 48 Apache helicopters from the National Guard to the active Army prior to June 30, 2016.
North Carolina will receive $412 million in specified Military Construction.
Approved projects include:
- Camp Lejeune: 2nd Radio Battalion Complex Operations Consolidation, Simulator Integration/Range Control Facility, Special Operations Combat Service Support Facility, Special Operations Marine Battalion Company/Team Facilities
- Cherry Point Marine Corps Air Station: KC 130J Enlisted Air Crew Trainer Facility, Unmanned Aircraft System Facilities
- New River: Operational Trainer Facility, Radar Air Traffic Control Facility Addition
- Seymour Johnson AFB: Air Traffic Control Tower/Base Ops Facility
- Fort Bragg: Butner Elementary School Replacement, SOF 21 STS Operations Facility, Special Operations Battalion Operations Facility, Special Operations Indoor Range, Special Operations Intelligence Training Center, Special Operations Special Tactics Facility
- Charlotte/Douglas IAP: Replace C-130 Squadron Operations Facility