Defense bills hold millions for Tampa Bay area
By BILL ADAIR, Times Staff Writer
WASHINGTON -- When the House votes today on two defense bills, MacDill Air Force Base stands to win a new control tower and fire station.
The MacDill projects are among $80.5-million for the Tampa Bay area that Rep. C.W. Bill Young has included in the bills. Much of the local money would continue research and training programs related to terrorism and homeland defense.
Young, the Largo Republican who chairs the House Appropriations Committee, said Florida colleges and universities were among the first to do research on bioterrorism and other homeland defense topics.
"In Florida, we are just a little bit ahead of the rest of the country in doing this research," he said.
Young said it was crucial that MacDill receive a new control tower to replace the small one built in 1955. The roof leaks and the building does not meet current standards. It is so short that controllers cannot see the entire airfield.
The fire station, which houses the crash rescue trucks, is also too small, said Lt. Col. Tom Kaldenberg of MacDill. It was built in 1952 and is not large enough to house the modern rescue truck that was recently purchased.
Young said the new tower and fire station -- costing $13-million -- could reduce the chances that a future base closure commission would try to shut down MacDill.
The two defense bills, which passed the Appropriations Committee on Monday, are likely to pass the House today.
A separate bill will go through the Senate. It's highly likely the Tampa Bay projects will be approved. As chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, Young has tremendous clout to make sure his projects are included when the final versions are passed later this summer.
Other local projects in the House bills include:
$10-million for the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa to develop new techniques for diagnosis and treatment of cancer.
$9-million for the University of South Florida to develop rapid-response measures for biological and chemical threats.
$6-million for research at USF St. Petersburg for the continued development of underwater sensors that can detect explosives.
$5-million for St. Petersburg College, including $3-million for the National Terrorism Preparedness Institute to train first responders for terrorist attacks and $2-million to train military police.
$5-million for USF to finish building a laboratory for microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) at the Star Center, a former Department of Energy plant in the Largo area. MEMS devices, tiny transmitters that have been used to gather information about patients' bodies, are being tested for possible use in weapons systems.
The bills include $1-million for a new Naval ROTC unit at USF, $17-million for a fourth Black Hawk helicopter for the Army Reserve aviation unit at St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport and $5-million to continue distance learning programs for drug enforcement at St. Petersburg College's training center.
Other local research projects include $3.5-million to continue defense-related software development at USF and $3.5-million for USF's Center for Disaster Management and Humanitarian Assistance to help U.S. Southern Command respond to disasters in Central and South America.
The bills also earmark $2.5-million for the Florida National Guard for security operations at Florida's seaports.
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