Legislature(2009 - 2010)

02/04/2010 03:09 PM House FIN

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03:09:37 PM Start
03:10:37 PM HB300 || HB302
03:40:32 PM Adjourn
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HOUSE BILL NO. 300                                                                                                            
     "An Act making appropriations for the operating and                                                                        
     loan program expenses of state government, for certain                                                                     
     programs, and to capitalize funds; making supplemental                                                                     
     appropriations; making appropriations under art. IX,                                                                       
     sec. 17(c), Constitution of the State of Alaska; and                                                                       
     providing for an effective date."                                                                                          
HOUSE BILL NO. 302                                                                                                              
     "An Act making appropriations for the operating and                                                                        
     capital    expenses    of   the    state's    integrated                                                                   
     comprehensive mental health program; and providing for                                                                     
     an effective date."                                                                                                        
3:10:37 PM                                                                                                                    
DEPARTMENT OF MILITARY AND VETERANS AFFAIRS                                                                                   
BRIGADIER  GENERAL  THOMAS KATKUS,  COMMISSIONER,  DEPARTMENT                                                                   
OF  MILITARY  AND VETERANS  AFFAIRS,  AND  COMMANDER,  ALASKA                                                                   
ARMY  NATIONAL  GUARD,  explained   that  the  Department  of                                                                   
Military  and  Veterans  Affairs  not  only  encompasses  the                                                                   
uniformed  members  of  the  National  Guard,  but  also  the                                                                   
Alaska  Military  Youth  Academy.  Multiple  instructors  and                                                                   
assistants instruct  at-risk youths  who have dropped  out of                                                                   
high  school to  give them  an opportunity  to complete  high                                                                   
school, gain  healthy life skills, develop  leadership skills                                                                   
and learn team  work. General Katkus indicated  that Veterans                                                                   
Affairs  is also  an  important part  of  the department.  He                                                                   
applauded  Director   Verdie  Bowen  for   addressing  issues                                                                   
regarding the  Alaska Territorial Guard and  recognizing some                                                                   
of the  most historical and  reverend members that  served in                                                                   
the territorial  guard from  1942 to  1947. Today the  Alaska                                                                   
Territorial  Guard   is  considered  the   original  homeland                                                                   
defense mission in  Alaska. He noted that Director  Bowen has                                                                   
recognized,  paid, and  presented awards  and decorations  to                                                                   
these veterans.                                                                                                                 
3:14:27 PM                                                                                                                    
Representative  Fairclough  appreciated   the  good  monetary                                                                   
management  used  in  regard to  the  Alaska  Military  Youth                                                                   
General Katkus  commented that  the current budget  is solid,                                                                   
even with  all the natural  disasters and mobilizations  that                                                                   
have  occurred. In  the  area of  the  Alaska Military  Youth                                                                   
Academy, the decrement  of $600,000 was due to  a decrease in                                                                   
the  number of  students. He  declared that  since the  money                                                                   
was not put to use, it was returned to the state.                                                                               
MCHUGH PIERRE,  DEPUTY COMMISSIONER,  DEPARTMENT OF  MILITARY                                                                   
AND  VETERANS   AFFAIRS,  interjected  that   every  eligible                                                                   
student was taken  into the program for the  beginning class.                                                                   
He noted  that when the next  count is taken in  October, the                                                                   
number  of students  may rise,  but the funding  will be  for                                                                   
last  year's number.  He indicated  that  the department  can                                                                   
still work within the budget.                                                                                                   
3:17:01 PM                                                                                                                    
Co-Chair Stoltze  complimented and appreciated  the works and                                                                   
interaction  with  the  Veteran's   Advisory  Commission  and                                                                   
Veteran's Affairs.                                                                                                              
3:18:43 PM                                                                                                                    
General   Katkus   agreed   with  the   importance   of   the                                                                   
interaction.  He   continued  with  the  FY2011   budget.  He                                                                   
informed that the  new Readiness Center in Bethel  was coming                                                                   
into fruition.  The $20 million  Readiness Center  will house                                                                   
the  existing air  crew  and the  training  platform for  the                                                                   
infantry   airborne   company.   He  mentioned   some   early                                                                   
challenges with  the Federal  Aviation Agency, but  indicated                                                                   
the  airfield  location  adds   security,  mobilization,  and                                                                   
expediency. The  price tag to  maintain the facility  will be                                                                   
$88,000. The Air  Guard budget reflects a  $240,000 increase,                                                                   
which is  a percentage  of the overall  federal monies.   The                                                                   
federal  government  provides about  90  percent  of what  is                                                                   
needed and the state provides the rest.                                                                                         
3:21:59 PM                                                                                                                    
Co-Chair Hawker  asked what  would be at  risk if  Alaska did                                                                   
not provide the matching funding.                                                                                               
General Katkus  replied that  10 percent  of the work  effort                                                                   
would have  to shut  down. The worst  case scenario  would be                                                                   
that the  state of  Alaska would  lose the  Wing which  would                                                                   
then move to another state willing to provide the funding.                                                                      
Co-Chair Hawker inquired about  the duties and mission of the                                                                   
Wing.  General Katkus  replied that  there are  two Wings  in                                                                   
Alaska.  The Air  Wing  of the  176th  flies  the newest  C17                                                                   
aircraft alongside  the active  duty military. Currently  the                                                                   
Wing is  deployed to  Haiti for a  relief mission.  The C-130                                                                   
aircraft  supplies   life  support  throughout   the  Pacific                                                                   
region. The  air control squadron supplies  the communication                                                                   
link  between   the  National   Command  Authority   and  the                                                                   
Commander of  the Alaskan Command  (ALCOM). This  directs F22                                                                   
aircraft to intercept  Russian bombers or any  incursion into                                                                   
the United  States sovereign  territory.  They would  also be                                                                   
the direct link to intercept during  a highjacking situation.                                                                   
The 168th, the Air Refueling Wing,  provides the fuel for the                                                                   
airplanes  that perform  the  intercepts.  He mentioned  that                                                                   
Clear  Air Force  station has  a sensor  that performs  space                                                                   
technology to identify objects  in space that are a threat to                                                                   
the U.  S. space station  or satellites  and supplies  a grid                                                                   
that can  detect any  missile launches.  The Alaska  National                                                                   
Guard is critical  to both the national defense  and Alaska's                                                                   
economy and security.                                                                                                           
3:25:51 PM                                                                                                                    
Commissioner Pierre  added that not  every state has  a Wing,                                                                   
but Alaska  has two. There is  pressure from other  states to                                                                   
get this group; therefore it is  important for Alaska to show                                                                   
good faith in funding.                                                                                                          
General Katkus added  that the Air Rescue Center,  run by the                                                                   
Air  National  Guard,  facilitates   and  assists  the  first                                                                   
responder  in a rescue  emergency. He  noted that at  present                                                                   
there are 2146 assigned drilling  members in the Air National                                                                   
Guard.  General  Katkus  remarked  that  for  every  thousand                                                                   
people  in  Alaska there  are  5.4  members in  the  National                                                                   
Guard, making Alaska fifth in  the nation. He remarked on the                                                                   
smooth  progression  in  moving  the  units,  equipment,  and                                                                   
aircraft from Kulis Air National  Guard Base to Elmendorf Air                                                                   
Force Base.  The new facilities  are on target,  on schedule,                                                                   
and  within  budget. He  added  that  this would  bring  $130                                                                   
million  for  construction  into Alaska's  economy.  The  Air                                                                   
Rescue Squadron's Pararescue  team will move on schedule into                                                                   
one  of the  top  notch facilities  in  the  nation. The  Air                                                                   
National Guard's  Jewel Lake Armory will be  transferred back                                                                   
to the city,  but if the city  does not want to  maintain the                                                                   
site, he  believed it would be  a good location  for Veterans                                                                   
Affairs and Family Civilian Support.                                                                                            
3:29:34 PM                                                                                                                    
Co-Chair  Hawker questioned  if the Jewel  Lake facility  had                                                                   
environmental  issues  associated  with  it.  General  Katkis                                                                   
replied  that  those  issues have  been  addressed  over  the                                                                   
Co-Chair Hawker asked what was  going to happen to the static                                                                   
aircraft displays at Kulis. General  Katkus answered that the                                                                   
plan was to  move the displays to Elmendorf.  Co-Chair Hawker                                                                   
mentioned that  the Alaska Aviation Heritage  Museum would be                                                                   
happy to work with them if they needed extra space.                                                                             
3:32:13 PM                                                                                                                    
General Katkus pointed out that  the only national cemeteries                                                                   
in Alaska were at Fort Richardson  in Anchorage and in Sitka.                                                                   
He believed  that national cemeteries  were an  important and                                                                   
proper  way to pay  respect to  service members.  He noted  a                                                                   
budget request to  secure and pay the cost  of establishing a                                                                   
veteran's cemetery  in the Fairbanks  area, run by  the state                                                                   
to the equivalent standards of a national cemetery.                                                                             
Commissioner Pierre  added that there has been  great support                                                                   
in the  Fairbanks community  for the  national cemetery.  The                                                                   
new  direction  of national  cemeteries  is for  the  federal                                                                   
government  to work with  the states  to help them  establish                                                                   
local military  cemeteries. Alaska's  donation of  $1 million                                                                   
will  contribute to  getting the  land  for establishing  the                                                                   
cemetery. At present,  the perfect location would  be land on                                                                   
the edge of the University of  Alaska Fairbanks. The cemetery                                                                   
would have the look and feel of  Arlington National Cemetery,                                                                   
but  contractors in  the local  community  would perform  the                                                                   
construction and maintenance work.                                                                                              
3:34:40 PM                                                                                                                    
Vice-Chair Thomas  asked if the headstones would  be the same                                                                   
as  Arlington  National Cemetery.  Commissioner  Pierre  said                                                                   
yes. He added that  even though it would be  a state cemetery                                                                   
it would  be a federally  recognized and affiliated  national                                                                   
cemetery  meeting  all federal  criteria.  Vice-Chair  Thomas                                                                   
asked who  will make the  final decision on land.  Commission                                                                   
Pierre replied  that the  people of  Fairbanks will  make the                                                                   
final decision.  Vice-Chair Thomas remarked that  veterans he                                                                   
has talked with support the university site.                                                                                    
3:36:09 PM                                                                                                                    
Commissioner Pierre  also mentioned that even  those veterans                                                                   
not  entitled  to the  federally  recognized  benefit can  be                                                                   
buried  in the  state  national cemetery.  Vice-Chair  Thomas                                                                   
remarked that  there is  a unit  that provides veterans  with                                                                   
military  honors at  their funeral.  General Katkus  informed                                                                   
that  this unit  performed over  150 funerals  last year.  He                                                                   
elaborated that  the primarily  volunteer individuals  in the                                                                   
unit  are issued  a  set of  dress  uniforms,  given time  to                                                                   
practice  and have their  travel expenses  paid to  locations                                                                   
throughout  the  state.  Vice-Chair   Thomas  asked  if  this                                                                   
service  was  for  all  military   branches.  General  Katkus                                                                   
replied yes.                                                                                                                    
3:38:28 PM                                                                                                                    
Co-Chair  Hawker thanked  the  general for  the services  and                                                                   
support   provided   during    the   memorial   service   for                                                                   
Representative  Richard  Foster. Representative  Neal  Foster                                                                   
also  expressed  his  thank you  for  his  father's  memorial                                                                   
General  Katkus  concluded  with   a  reference  to  the  two                                                                   
magazines handouts: Alaska Department  of Military & Veterans                                                                   
Affairs, Annual Report 2009, and Warriors (copies on file).                                                                     
3:40:32 PM                                                                                                                    
Representative  Joule commented that  he has seen  a decrease                                                                   
of National Guard enrollment in  the villages. He appreciated                                                                   
the recognition  in Warriors magazine of two  Alaska Natives.                                                                   
He declared that  these individuals were good  role models to                                                                   
village youths  to show them  that other opportunities  might                                                                   
be available to  them. General Katkus mentioned  other Alaska                                                                   
role models that have been recognized  in the National Guard.                                                                   

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