A measure that would allow Dobbins Air Reserve Base to enter into partnerships with private companies, giving them access to the base’s runway and control tower, passed its final congressional hurdle Thursday.
The Marietta base already has a joint-use agreement over the runway with its neighbor, Lockheed Martin, but federal law restricts other similar agreements from being signed. A provision in the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2018, which was passed unanimously by the U.S. Senate on Thursday, would eliminate that restriction.
Among the affirming votes were U.S. Sens. Johnny Isakson and David Perdue of Georgia, who worked together to get the measure that would lift the exclusivity clause into the Senate’s version of the defense bill, with Isakson drafting the provision’s language and Perdue working with the Senate Armed Services Committee and its chairman, U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, to get the provision added.
Thursday’s Senate approval of the bill came just two days after U.S. House members moved it forward by a 356-70 vote, with all three representatives whose districts include Cobb in support — Rep. Karen Handel, R-Roswell; Rep. Barry Loudermilk, R-Cassville; and Rep. David Scott, D-Atlanta. With both chambers of Congress approving it, it now heads to President Donald Trump for his signature.
The legislation, in addition to authorizing funding appropriations and setting forth policies for Department of Defense programs and activities, includes language that repeals a clause in the 1989 National Defense Authorization Act that set Lockheed Martin as the sole private entity allowed to use the 10,000-foot runway of Dobbins. The base is home to the U.S. Air Force’s 94th Airlift Wing and host to thousands of guardsmen, reservists and civilians from the Army, Navy and Marines.
Perdue previously called the restriction part of an “outdated law” that had “prevented the base from being utilized to its fullest potential.”
Another provision of the bill, Perdue said Thursday, will have an effect on Dobbins’ neighbor, as it calls for the order of 20 C-130J Super Hercules aircraft manufactured by Lockheed Martin’s Marietta facility.
Isakson on Thursday said the bill would also benefit Georgia’s dozen-plus military installations and lauded a 20,000-plus troop increase and 2.4-percent pay raise for service members included within it.
“After years of presidential vetoes of similar legislation to fund our military, it is gratifying to know that this critical authorization is increasing our military strength and that the president will sign it into law,” Isakson said in a news releases Thursday. “Our service members put everything on the line for our security, and I’m glad that they’ll receive a pay raise. This legislation addresses many of the needs our military has long needed and will provide stronger security.”