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Wednesday, July 12, 2006

PORKBUSTERS UPDATE: Stevens' Alaska LORAN Facilities Safe ... For Now

One of the four Coburn amendments that was accepted today by the Senate on unanimous consent sought to end funding for the Long Range Aids to Navigation stations.

LORAN is based on WWII-era technology and is no longer needed according to the departments of defense, transporation and homeland security. Even so, LORAN was scheduled by the Senate Appropriations Committee for a $300 million update over the next decade.

But six of the 24 remaining LORAN facilities are in Alaska, the homestate of Sen. Ted Stevens, dean of Senate GOP earmarkers. In a compromise agreement, however, the Coburn amendment was modified to preserve eight LORAN facilities, including all six in Alaska.

A key Senate aide who requested anonymity explained why the long-term LORAN outlook is not good:

"The Administration and Chairman Gregg oppose further funding for LORAN and the House bill discontinues funding, so we go into conference with $0 in the House bill and 2/3rds terminated in the Senate bill."

In other words, odds are good LORAN will not survive the Senate-House conference on the Homeland Security appropriations bill.