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Congress Split Over F-35 Funds for Eielson Air Force Base

FAIRBANKS, Alaska -- The US House and Senate are divided over how much construction funding Eielson Air Force Base should receive to prepare for two new squadrons of F-35 fighter jets.

A Senate subcommittee approved $295 million Wednesday for construction during the 2017 fiscal year. A House committee voted to reduce funding by $82.3 million, The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported.

The Department of Defense has asked Congress to fund seven construction projects at Eielson for fiscal 2017, which starts Oct. 1, 2016. The request comes after the Air Force announced it would station 54 F-35s at the base near Fairbanks starting in 2020.

The House funding bill included money for one aircraft weather shelter to house only one squadron of F-35s. The House committee cut the funding for a second shelter because there is concern Alaska has too many military construction projects planned in the next fiscal year, said Matt Shuckerow, a spokesman for Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska.

"Congressman Young raised his concerns directly to the House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rep. Hal Rodgers, R-Ky., and requested that all seven Eielson-based (military construction) projects be funded; however, the committee expressed concern over the sheer volume of projects in Alaska during (the 2017 fiscal year)," Shuckerow said by email to the newspaper.

Young "disagrees and knows that Alaska is ready and able to complete all construction projects to support the bed down of the F-35s at Eielson," Shuckerow said in an email to The Associated Press on Friday. He added Young plans to work with House leaders and Alaska's US senators to get the money put back in the bill before it's sent to President Obama.

The Senate version of the bill included $561 million in military construction projects in Alaska.

"While Alaska is set to receive a larger share of the 2017 military construction budget than any other state, these investments are incredibly important for the security of our entire nation," said Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska in a statement.

In addition to the upgrades at Eielson, the funding bill in both the House and Senate includes $155 million for a Long Range Discrimination Radar at Clear Air Force Station. It also includes $47 million to construct a hangar for the Gray Eagle Unmanned Aerial Vehicles at Fort Wainwright and $9.6 million for electrical improvements to the missile defense fields at Fort Greely.

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