House moves forward on $3B

Funding for China Lake awaits Senate approval, president’s signature

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

A flurry of action from the House of Representatives this week, and the anticipation of final approval by the Senate later today, could result in $3 billion in funding for China Lake.

The Fiscal Year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act, which outlines how some $1.8 billion in defense appropriations and some $1.2 billion military construction funds for this and the next fiscal year, passed through the House earlier this week — granting the full funding requested by the Navy for China Lake’s recovery from this summer’s 6.4- and 7.1-magnitude earthquakes.

With the approval of some $575 million in emergency funds expedited through Congress earlier this year, advocates report that operations at China Lake — touted as a critical component of national defense as well as a main economic engine — are well on the road to restoration.

“Having seen the damage caused by this summer’s earthquakes firsthand, I understand not only how deeply this funding is needed, but also how profound a positive impact it will have on the base, all of its employees and our defense community as a whole,” said House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, who represents Ridgecrest and helped lead the bipartisan effort to make the local Navy installation whole again.

“China Lake is essential to our military’s weapons development and research, and our national security is improved with Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake’s success.”

A surprise bonus in the package was some $64 million in funding to extend runways at China Lake — modernizing the facilities and putting the local base on a more competitive footing for work on the F-35 and other large aircraft.

The developments are a culmination of months of negotiations within both houses of Congress and represent good news in more ways than one.

If the Senate passes the reconciled version, it also means that the U.S. heads off another government shutdown.

Scott O’Neil, executive director of the IWV Economic Development Corp., said that the recovery efforts could also represent an economic stimulus for the valley — which will benefit from construction and other recovery efforts once funding kicks in.

Once the NDAA passes in the Senate, the package awaits only President Donald Trump’s signature for enactment.

Story First Published: 2019-12-20