WASHINGTON — Federal money to help restore flood-soaked Offutt Air Force Base is moving bit by bit through Congress.
The House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday approved the latest batch of funding, which is intended to replace crew training simulators and other electronic equipment destroyed in the flood.
Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb., offered the amendment to transfer $241 million to a special procurement account to address the situation.
Arguing for the amendment to his fellow committee members, Fortenberry noted that the equipment supports the Offutt-based 55th Wing’s fleet of RC-135 reconnaissance jets.
“It does electronic surveillance around the world,” Fortenberry said of the RC-135. “It helps save lives. It’s not the most glamorous aircraft. It has a yoke not a stick … but nonetheless it is a critical part of our nation’s infrastructure.”
The cost to replace the damaged equipment had been estimated at about $234 million. Fortenberry said his amendment also includes money for some needs at damaged Marine bases.
Fortenberry said the money would be transferred from a research account dealing with advanced missile systems, money the Air Force says is no longer needed.
Fortenberry told the committee that approving the money was a fiscally responsible step because without the simulators training must be done on the actual aircraft — an approach that puts additional wear and tear on expensive systems.
The committee approved the amendment on a voice vote.
“This is very good news for Offutt,” Fortenberry told The World-Herald following the vote.
Fortenberry said he intended to vote against the underlying legislation at the committee level even though he supports most of it.
He described that as simply part of the ongoing negotiations between Republicans and Democrats on the overall bill.
In addition to the simulator money, the House included about $120 million for Offutt as part of a disaster supplemental spending bill that still must pass the Senate before going to the president’s desk.
Fortenberry offered another amendment for $300 million that was included in committee-passed military construction legislation. That bill also must pass the full House and Senate.