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Edwards secures $40.3 Million for Brazos County under final 2008 bill

12/19/2007 12:00 AM

(WASHINGTON) – U.S. Representative Chet Edwards has secured $40.3 million for nine important projects in Brazos County under the final 2008 Appropriations bill, which passed the House late Monday and the Senate Tuesday. The bill is expected to be signed into law by the President.

“Investing in priority projects that support our veterans, homeland security, agriculture research, and transportation infrastructure is vital to future economic growth and quality of life for Brazos County families,” said Edwards, a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee. “I am grateful that $40.3 million was approved at my request for important Brazos County programs.”

As Chairman of the House Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Subcommittee, Edwards authored record budget increases for veterans under the bill. The bill increases the VA budget by $6.6 billion above the 2007 level, the largest single increase in the 77-year history of the Veterans Administration and is $3.7 billion above the President’s request for fiscal year 2008. The $3.7 billion increase for veterans is designated as emergency funding under the final bill, and is contingent on approval by the President before it can be released to the VA.

“This bill respects the service and sacrifice of America’s veterans by providing a historic funding increase for veterans’ health care,” said Edwards. “This funding will allow area VA facilities to hire more physicians and nurses, reduce waiting times for doctors’ appointments and improve the quality of health care for tens of thousands of Brazos Valley veterans.”

Edwards worked with the Texas congressional delegation to reverse $12.5 million in cuts proposed by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to train emergency first responders at the National Emergency Response and Rescue Training Center (NERRTC) at Texas A&M University.

“I am pleased that Congress denied the Office of Management and Budget’s ill-advised proposals to cut $12.5 million for first responders at NERRTC and instead fully funded this vital program with $22 million,” said Edwards. “Our police, firefighters and EMS personnel must be well-trained to respond to terrorist attacks or natural disasters.”

One of Edwards’ top priorities was securing funding for Texas A&M programs that help fight nuclear terrorism. Edwards secured $2 million for the Nuclear Security Science and Policy Institute (NSSPI) at Texas A&M, a valuable partner that helps the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) solve key nuclear security problems and produce the next generation of nuclear security experts. The nuclear engineering program at Texas A&M is considered the nation’s largest and fastest growing program in the United States.

“Protecting our nation from nuclear terrorism must be a top national priority, and my long term goal is to see that when the Department of Energy turns to a research institution for expert advice on nuclear terrorism issues, they turn to Texas A&M University,” said Edwards. Edwards also secured $984,000 for development of biofuels at the BioEnergy Alliance, a partnership between the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station (TAES) and the Texas Engineering Experiment Station (TEES) at Texas A&M to respond to the worldwide need to develop the next generation of clean, renewable alternative energy sources such as sorghum, biomass, and ethanol. In Texas, sorghum is plentiful, energy efficient and drought resistant.

“Texas A&M is a global leader in agricultural research, and developing more renewable domestic energy sources will not only help lessen our dependence on foreign oil, it will improve our economy and protect the environment in a responsible manner.”

Edwards worked to include $21.9 million for 23 farming, forestry and animal health research programs at Texas A&M. The $21.9 million will fund research programs at Texas A&M including a study of the effects of the Farm Bill on regional farming communities, livestock and dairy policy research, the effects of healthy foods and diet on disease prevention, the sustainability of irrigation in rural communities, and revegetation of training acreage for soldiers at Fort Hood. This also provides critical funding for USDA Agriculture Research Service (ARS) labs in Texas.

“The innovative agriculture research at Texas A&M plays a key role in ensuring that Americans have access to the safest, low cost food supply in the world, and these important programs will help protect family farms, provide training ranges for Fort Hood soldiers, and support our economy.”

Edwards also secured $1.39 million for two Texas A&M programs that provide anti-terrorism training to educators and local law enforcement. Specifically, Edwards secured $927,780 for the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training (ALERRT) program at Texas A&M and Texas State University, a Texas Engineering Extension Service (TEEX) program that provides critical training for law enforcement officers, Guard, Reserve and Active Duty service members. Edwards also secured $470,000 for Project Protect, a Texas A&M a program that trains school administrators, community resource personnel, teachers and students in the skills necessary to prepare, prevent, respond, and recover from terrorist activities and violent acts in the school environment.

“The training provided by ALERRT and Project Protect will help first responders and educators, who are the first to respond to acts of violence in our communities, quickly respond to protect our children and citizens in the event of an attack,” said Edwards.

Edwards secured $705,000 for Texas A&M to develop new robotic technologies that enable multiple robots to collaborate, under human supervision in exploration and construction activities for NASA lunar and Martian exploration plans.

“Developing new robotics technology for NASA is an important responsibility for Texas A&M that will help us all learn more about our universe as we explore the Moon and Mars,” said Edwards.

Edwards also secured $588,000 for the Brazos Valley Transportation Management Center to study ways to reduce road congestion and plan for future growth in the Brazos Valley. Edwards secured $400,000 for this project in 2005.

“Reducing congestion is a safety, quality of life, and economic development issue in Brazos County,” said Edwards. “As I have listened to community leaders and citizens throughout Brazos County, they have repeatedly said that improving roads and highways is key to economic growth and bringing in new businesses to Brazos County.”

Finally, Edwards secured $150,000 for Project Focus, a program administered by the Shiloh Economic Development Corporation designed to combat the spread of crime associated with alcohol and drug abuse through placement of individuals into rehabilitation facilities, increased drug education and prevention services for addicts and their families.

“Responsible efforts to help those who want to overcome alcohol and drug addiction will not only rebuild lives and strengthen families, it will save taxpayers money,” said Edwards.

Edwards has already secured $6.8 million for Texas A&M defense projects and $2.6 million for Lynntech Inc. under the final 2008 Defense Appropriations bill, which was signed into law by the president in November. Combined with the final Appropriations bill, the total for all 2008 Brazos County appropriations projects supported and secured by Edwards is $49.7 million.

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