Cochran: 2017 Omnibus Bill Benefits Miss.

Gulf Coast

From:  News Release   5//5/17


Cochran Speaks in Support of FY2017 Omnibus (Video link:


WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, today announced provisions in the FY2017 omnibus appropriations bill of benefit to the Mississippi Gulf Coast, including funding to boost Navy shipbuilding programs.


Cochran was instrumental in writing the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2017 (HR.244), which is legislation to complete the 11 remaining appropriations bills.  The Senate approved the measure on a 79-18 vote, clearing the way for it to be signed into law.


“The completion of the 2017 appropriations process is good for the American people.  It will allow funding to be directed to current challenges and priorities for the country.  This bipartisan agreement makes program rescissions and consolidations that permitted us to direct resources to areas of greater need, including national defense and infrastructure,” Cochran said.


Overall, the FY2017 omnibus appropriations measure provides significant additional funding for national defense and border enhancement.  It also contains more than 150 rescissions of funding, program terminations or program consolidations across the federal government, totaling more than $11.427 billion.


Of importance to the Gulf Coast and South Mississippi, the bill contains funding to shipbuilding, NASA activities at the Stennis Space Center, rail transportation, coastal ecology and other programs.


“The importance of the Mississippi Gulf Coast to our national defense cannot be overstated.  A good portion of the work to fulfill the President’s goal to strengthen U.S. defenses will take place in Mississippi,” Cochran said.


“I am pleased the omnibus bill supports work at the Stennis Space Center, resources management in the Gulf of Mexico, and programs like Job Corps on the Coast,” he said.


The bill provides $21.2 billion for Navy shipbuilding, a $2.8 billion increase, to support the construction of 10 new ships.  The Ingalls shipyard at Pascagoula will be integral to the successful delivery of new DDG-51 destroyers, an LHA amphibious assault ship, and one LPD amphibious transport dock.


The Pascagoula shipyard also builds National Security Cutters (NSC) for the U.S. Coast Guard.  The omnibus agreement provides funding to maintain the Coast Guard acquisition schedule for a new cutter fleet, including post-delivery activities for NSC 9 and long-lead-time materials for NSC 10.


For NASA, the bill provides $10 million to improve rocket test stands at the Stennis Space Center, where all testing will be done for the Space Launch System (SLS).  The agreement includes $2.15 billion to continue development and testing of SLS.


The omnibus also includes $10 million in Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements funding to help reestablish passenger rail service on the Gulf Coast, and includes $5 million for restoration and enhancement grants.


The following are a few of the provisions within the FY2017 appropriations bill of interest to the Mississippi Gulf Coast:


Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements – $10 million to help reestablish passenger rail service in the Gulf Coast, and includes $5 million for restoration and enhancement grants.


Job Corps - $1.7 billion, a $15 million increase, the Job Corps program.  Mississippi has Job Corps centers located in Batesville, Gulfport, and Crystal Springs.  Report language was included in the Senate bill regarding the timely restoration of the Gulfport Job Corps Center. 


YouthBuild - $84.5 million in Labor Department funding to support YouthBuild programs, including those in Greenville, Gulfport, and Jackson.


Shipbuilding – $21.2 billion for Navy shipbuilding programs, an increase of $2.8 billion, to fund construction of 10 new ships, three more than the last Obama budget request.  Affecting Mississippi, the bill includes:

  • Amphibious Warship Replacement – $1.8 billion not in the defense budget request to fully fund a LPD amphibious warship.  The bill also adds $19 million in R&D funds for the LX (R).  The Navy and the Marine Corps signed a memorandum of understanding in 2014 to base the LX(R) design on the existing San Antonio-class (LPD-17) currently being built by Ingalls.
  • LHA-8 – $1.6 billion for advance procurement of the LHA-8 amphibious assault ship. The remaining funds needed for LHA 8 are planned for FY2018. 
    DDG-51 Destroyers – $3.6 billion to construct three Arleigh Burke Class DDG-51 Destroyers. The Navy is currently executing a 10-ship multi-year agreement from FY2013-2017 with construction split between Ingalls and the Bath Iron Works in Maine.
  • Polar Icebreaker – $150 million not in the budget request for advanced procurement materials to support the polar icebreaker recapitalization project.
  • U.S. Coast Guard National Security Cutter (NSC) – $10.45 billion for the U.S. Coast Guard overall, $344 million above the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) budget request.  The bill sustains the Coast Guard acquisition schedule for a new cutter fleet, including post-delivery activities for NSC 9, and long-lead-time materials for NSC 10.
  • NOAA Ocean Survey Vessel – $75 million in National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) funding to construct a new Ocean Survey Vessel to conduct research in the Gulf of Mexico.  This is in addition to the $80 million provided in the FY2016 Omnibus.  The contract for ship construction will be openly competed, giving Mississippi shipyards an opportunity to build the vessel.  NOAA’s oldest vessel is homeported in Pascagoula.
  • National Science Foundation Regional Class Research Vessels – $122 million for the design and construction of a three Regional Class Research Vessels.  This will allow for a dedicated ship for the Gulf of Mexico, as well as both the East and West coasts.


NASA – $2.15 billion for the Space Launch System (SLS) to continue testing and development to ensure a full core stage test in 2017.  All testing will be done at Stennis.  This includes a $10 million increase in the Rocket Propulsion Test Infrastructure account to improve rocket test stands at Stennis Space Center.


Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle – $100 million above the Defense Department budget request for continued rocket engine and launch system development.  Aerojet Rocketdyne’s AR1 engine will benefit.  This engine is competing to replace the Russian-made RD-180 engine.  This work is conducted at Stennis.


Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) - $19 million, not included in the budget request, for small UAS (sUAS) research and testing and UAS fleet upgrades.  This funding will support DHS missions, including border security, maritime security, and counter-UAS operations.  A portion of these funds will be used to support activities in Mississippi, which was recently designated as the DHS's sUAS demonstration test range.  The facility for demonstration and research of sUAS would involve several Mississippi sites including:  Camp Shelby, which is the Army National Guard’s national UAS training center; buffer zone areas at the Stennis Space Center, which is used for Department of Defense special operations training; and maritime environment accessible from U.S. Coast Guard facilities on Singing River Island.

  • $10 million in U.S. Department of Transportation funding for the FAA Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) Center of Excellence, which is run by a MSU-led consortium.
  • $5 million through NASA to establish a program affiliated with the FAA Center of Excellence for Unmanned Aircraft Systems, working in partnership with DHS, to evaluate the safety of certain UAS for use in a broad range of public safety applications over land and maritime environments.


MQ-8 and MQ-4 unmanned aircraft programs – $114 million to procure five MQ-8 Fire Scout aircraft and $444 million for three MQ-4 Triton aircraft.  Final assembly of the Fire Scout and Triton are completed in Moss Point.


Northern Gulf Institute (NGI) – Provides $32 million for the NOAA Laboratories and Cooperative Institutes, including NGI, which is led by Mississippi State University and housed at Stennis Space Center.  NGI also includes the University of Southern Mississippi, Louisiana State University, Florida State University, Dauphin Island Sea Lab and NOAA.


Marine Aquaculture – $9.5 million for aquaculture research and development, an increase of $500 thousand.  In addition, provided $9.3 million for aquaculture activities under NOAA Fisheries Service (NMFS), which is $3 million above FY 2016 enacted, of which $1 million is directed for external grants to academic institutions.  A portion of the funds will be used at the Fisheries Science Center located in Pascagoula.


NOAA National Data Buoy Center (NDBC) – Full funding is included for the NDBC, which is housed at the Stennis Space Center and is instrumental in helping meteorologists and researchers monitor and predict ocean and coastal weather events.


Ocean ExplorationIncludes language directing research in the Gulf of Mexico and $36 million for the program overall.  Mississippi research universities, including the University of Southern Mississippi, will continue to utilize this program.


Army Corps of Engineers Port and Harbor Maintenance – Within $70 million for 29 authorized Army Corps projects in Mississippi, $8.4 million is provided for dredging and navigation maintenance of seven Mississippi ports:  Biloxi, Gulfport, Pascagoula, Greenville, Claiborne County (Port Gibson), Rosedale, and Vicksburg.

  • Deep-Draft Harbors and Channels – $268 million, not included in the budget request, for the Army Corps to allocate additional funding to high use, deep draft navigation projects that were inadequately budgeted in the president’s request.  Pascagoula and Gulfport harbors will be eligible for this funding, which will help support commercial traffic serving Mississippi’s Gulf refinery, major shipbuilding industry, and flow many important imports.
  • Shallow-Draft Harbors and Channels – $49 million, not included in the budget request, for the Army Corps to allocate additional funding for dredging of shallow draft ports and channels (Rosedale Harbor, Claiborne County Port, and Mouth of Yazoo River in Vicksburg).
  • Language directing the Corps to prioritize ports designated as strategic seaports when allocating additional funding provided in the bill for navigation and maintenance.  The Department of Defense granted strategic seaport designation to the Port of Gulfport in November 2015.


National Estuarine Research Reserve System (NERRS) $23.5 million, a portion of which goes to the Grand Bay NERR site in Pascagoula. 


Expanded Boundaries for State Fishery ManagementMaintains the nine-mile extension of Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana state seaward fishery boundaries for regulating all Gulf reef fish.  Prior to the FY2016 omnibus appropriations act, only Texas and Florida had nine-mile limits.  This provision will maintain an equal playing field for all Gulf States.

  • Red Snapper Stock Assessment Funding is included for an independent assessment of Gulf of Mexico reef fish stocks, which will allow an organization other than NOAA to conduct this assessment.  The legislation instructs the recipient to count fish on artificial reefs and offshore energy infrastructure.  NOAA will be required to incorporate this new, more accurate count into its stock assessments, potentially increasing the allowable catch of red snapper for private anglers.
  • Electronic Monitoring and Reporting – Full funding for electronic monitoring and reporting technologies to support real-time fisheries data collection to cut costs and reduce the reporting burden for Gulf commercial and recreational fishermen. The bill also includes report language instructing NOAA to focus on the Gulf of Mexico.


COASTAL Act Implementation  $5 million, not included in the budget request, to continue development and implementation of the Consumer Option for an Alternative System To Allocate Losses (COASTAL) Act.  This law directs NOAA to establish processes for determining whether hurricane damage was caused by wind or water for the purpose of settling insurance claims.


Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration – $12.9 million for Landscape Conservation Cooperatives with a $700,000 set aside to support conservation partnerships between universities (Mississippi State University), state wildlife agencies (Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks), and related organizations in addressing conservation challenges in the Gulf Coast region. 


Environmental Infrastructure – $55 million for the Army Corps to provide design and construction assistance for water and wastewater treatment facilities nationwide.  The Corps could utilize $15.5 million in funds to initiate 11 projects in Mississippi involving sewer system, wastewater treatment and water supply improvements.  Overall, Environmental Infrastructure funding may be used for administration and management of ongoing projects.  There are ongoing “Sections 592” projects in Rankin, Scott, Lawrence, Pike, Lamar, Forrest, Wayne, and Jackson counties.


Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) $4.8 billion for FEMA.  An additional $7.33 billion is provided for the Disaster Relief Fund.  The bill has $1.05 billion for FEMA Operations and Support, including $38 million for Urban Search and Rescue Teams, $9 million for the National Dam Safety Program, and $2 million for the Emergency Management Assistance Compact.  Once again, Congress rejected significant proposed cuts to grants for State and local first responders and emergency management personnel.