BILOXI, MS (WLOX/AP) - A $560 billion defense bill that is critical to jobs in South Mississippi is now awaiting President Barack Obama's signature. U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker reports the Senate passed the National Defense Authorization Act on Friday.
Wicker reports one of the provisions of the measure focuses on C-130Js at Keesler Air Force Base. It prohibits the transfer of the planes stationed at Keesler unless the Air Force can substantiate its claim that the transfer would save taxpayer dollars.
Ten of the Flying Jennies were scheduled to be relocated to another Air Force base and the 815th and 345th squads were set to be deactivated, but that decision was rescinded in July.
More than 600 employees are assigned to those squads. The Air Force has tried three times in the past two years to relocate the C-130Js.
Wicker said this bill also pushes for more shipbuilding in Jackson County. The measure provides new funding for Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula to build a 12th LPD-17 amphibious warship.
The Pascagoula shipyard has around 11,000 employees and is the largest manufacturing employer in Mississippi.
According to The Associated Press, the defense bill also backs an expanded military campaign against Islamic State militants.
"The importance of passing this legislation should not be understated. Our nation is fighting two wars – one in Afghanistan and the other against ISIS," said Wicker. "The men and women of our armed forces need this blueprint to do the job we have asked them to do, as well as plan for the future security of the United States."
The AP reports the bill also authorizes funds for basic military operations, from a one percent pay raise for the troops, to the purchase of ships, aircraft and other war-fighting equipment.
"I am pleased that Congress is finally sending a defense authorization bill to the President's desk. Passage of this legislation marks the culmination of a year's worth of hard work to ensure our troops and military leaders have the tools they need to carry out their missions," said Wicker.