U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz has won an early battle to secure funding for the nation’s military test ranges, including the Gulf Test Range that extends off the coast of Northwest Florida.
The final House Armed Services Committee markup of the National Defense Authorization Act, completed Thursday, included a $41.9 million increase for the military test ranges, a news release from Gaetz’s office said.
"The Gulf Test Range provides approximately 120,000 square miles of overwater airspace spanning the coast of Florida’s First Congressional District,” the news release said. "It is used for high altitude, supersonic air combat training, as well as air-to-air missile testing, drone targeting, hypersonic weapons testing, and space launches. Additionally, the Air Force Special Operations Command, the 96th Test Wing, the 33rd Fighter Wing, and others all train on the Gulf Test Range.
“The FY2019 NDAA passage in the House Armed Services Committee is a tremendous victory for Florida’s First Congressional District. We have continued our effort to enhance military test ranges, including the Gulf Test Range,” Gaetz said in the release.
Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, also applauded the inclusion of numerous other provisions in the markup that could, if retained as the bill passes through Congress, benefit Northwest Florida.
Those provisions include:
$10 million for refurbishing the North Field Air Traffic Control Tower at Whiting Field
$60 million for F-35A spare parts
$41.9 million for Test Range modernization
$34.8 million for F-35A Integrated Training Center Academics Building at Eglin Air Force Base
$28 million for F-35A Student Dormitory II
Gaetz spokesman Kavontae Smalls said the markup passed Thursday as a “final draft” that indicates the Armed Services Committee has approved final funding levels for the bill it will vote on and, upon passage, push forward for the full U.S. House to consider.
“It still has to be voted on by the whole House, and amendments might be offered at that time, and the bill might be changed more beforehand, and then the Senate has to vote on their version of the bill, and then the two versions have to be reconciled in what’s called a conference report,” Smalls said in an email. “So there’s still quite a ways to go before we know for certain that the funding is secure.”
Gaetz called the markup approval a good, bi-partisan first step.
“I look forward to the House passing this bill, and continuing to rebuild our great military,” he said.