Georgia could benefit from some gains in defense spending

6:18 p.m Thursday, Dec. 11, 2014 Local

The $1 trillion spending bill now being debated in Congress includes some key provisions for Georgia’s military installations — particularly Valdosta’s Moody Air Force Base.

Moody will be a prime beneficiary of the bill’s extra $331.1 million for the A-10 close air support fighter plane. Moody houses a contingent of A-10s, which the Air Force had wanted to phase out starting this year in favor of the next-generation F-35 joint strike fighter.

But the F-35 is not projected to be ready for a while, and Georgia’s members of Congress joined with other states to block what they claimed was a premature retirement. The annual defense policy bill — expected to become law in the coming days — keeps the A-10s, and the spending bill funds them.

In addition, the spending deal threw in an extra $479 million above the Pentagon’s request to buy four more F-35s for the Navy and Air Force — for a total of 38 planes in 2015. Lockheed Martin manufactures the “center wing” of the F-35 at its Marietta facility, and Georgia lawmakers hope to eventually house a squadron at Moody.

The bill also fully funds Obama administration requests for the Joint Surveillance and Target Attack Radar System, housed at Robins Air Force Base in Warner Robins. The Middle Georgia base is also home to C-130 military transport aircraft, and the bill fully funds the Air Force’s plans to buy more of them.

In addition, the bill includes the full $27.7 million for a new Air Force Reserve Command complex at Robins.

The bill’s $853 million for research and development on a replacement to the Ohio class submarine — which is housed at Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base — is a slight increase from the administration’s request.

“Georgia’s coming out very well from a defense standpoint,” said Republican U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, who worked for many of the funding priorities from his post on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

The bill’s fate remained unclear Thursday night because of fights over nonmilitary provisions.