Nebraska is well known for the major role it plays in our nation's defense as home to America's Strategic Command, and it plays a broader role in our national security role than many people may realize, which is about to become even larger.
The National Defense Authorization Act just approved by the Senate Armed Services Committee on which I serve as Chair of the Strategic Forces Subcommittee provides Nebraska's men and women in our armed forces and their families the support, benefits and training they need. It also funds a number of important military projects in Nebraska.
In the next step of the funding process, the Senate Appropriations Committee, on which I also serve, will decide exact funding. As part of my continuing commitment to transparency in congressionally directed funding, better known as earmarks, information about each project will be posted on my website.
Nebraska is often referred to as the Silicon Prairie because of high tech research going on at the University of Nebraska system and this bill contributes to that by providing research funds to develop modern military equipment.
For instance, $3 million for the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) is to develop a handheld telemedicine device to assist medics in the field to care for soldiers. This technology provides remote access to medical data preventing unnecessary testing and speeding delivery of care.
Another $3 million would go to UNMC to advance prosthetic retinal implants to restore vision for those blinded due to trauma. Statistics show over half of those treated at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and diagnosed with Traumatic Brain Injury also experience vision damage. UNMC performs some of the nation's leading vision restoration research in cooperation with Johns Hopkins Medical Center.
$5 million would go to UNL to develop software for unmanned aircraft to automatically react to its environment. This research addresses the need to automate management of unmanned aircraft and reduce manpower required to operate the systems remotely.
UNL would also receive $3 million for further research for high-density energy storage devices. Soldiers rely heavily on batteries to power their equipment carrying an average of 10 lbs of spare batteries. This addresses a defense department critical need to reduce battery size. The specific carbon shell structures under research are unique to research at UNL.
The bill does so much more for the military including funds for UNL for development of materials to destroy airborne biological and chemical toxins, funds for Army National Guard Readiness Centers in Lincoln and Mead and new security gates at Offutt Air Force Base, home of StratCom.
The legislation also includes an amendment I co sponsored to increase competition and allow more and smaller domestic small arms manufacturers to provide critical spare parts for the armed services. It also includes another amendment I co-sponsored to encourage the Defense Department to sell surplus small arms ammunition and ammunition components.
This is major legislation that contains much more, along with other measures I cosponsored including benchmarks to measure progress in Afghanistan and enabling dependent children of armed service members and retirees to stay on their family's insurance until age 26, bringing TRICARE in line with the health reform bill signed into law this year. I wanted to highlight some of its provisions that provide for Nebraska's men and women in our armed forces and the important projects being developed in Nebraska that will improve our nation's military.