Kilmer on powerful money committee

Money equals power, be it in the corporate world or in politics.

U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer sits on the Appropriations Committee, viewed as one of the “power committees” in Washington, D.C. since it holds the power of the purse strings.

Bills passed by the Appropriations Committee and its Senate counterpart regulate how the U.S. government spends taxpayer dollars for most of the federal government’s functions, including national defense and education. Members are seen as influential policymakers. Kilmer has been on the committee since 2015 when he was appointed by his Democratic colleagues.

In addition to being part of the defense subcommittee, Kilmer also sits on the energy and water development, and interior and environment subcommittees.

The defense subcommittee oversees funding for the military, the intelligence community, and other national defense-related agencies. It has jurisdiction over the departments of the Navy, Army, Air Force, Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Central Intelligence Agency.

Decisions can have a direct impact on the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton and other military facilities in the Pacific Northwest. The congressman outlined ways the shipyard will benefit from the defense spending bill President Biden signed into law.

The measure provides $21 billion over 20 years to modernize the shipyard and the country’s other three naval shipyards, Kilmer said. “The investment in our shipyards ensures they are capable of meeting the Navy’s mission and are modernized so maintenance can be done more efficiently,” Kilmer said. “We are talking about construction jobs and $5 (billion) to $6 billion coming into our local economy.”

Installation of a new drydock to handle the next generation of aircraft carriers is the most significant piece of the modernization.

“When the Ford-class [of nuclear-powered aircraft] carriers come online, there is currently not a West Coast shipyard capable of handling [them],” Kilmer said. That class of aircraft carriers is expected to replace the Nimitz-class carriers.

The measure also provides $10 million to build an interim submarine maintenance complex to support the shipyard and maintenance facility work, he said. The funding will support infrastructure associated with repairing fast-attack subs at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor.

Modernization will also involve updating the 130-year-old naval base’s infrastructure.

The legislation also provided a 2.7% pay raise for uniformed U.S. service members and approximately 750,000 civilian Defense Department employees. Military families will benefit from higher wages, as will Kitsap County, Kilmer said.

“The naval presence is the 800-pound gorilla when it comes to our local economy. The federal government is the largest employer. Making sure that people are sufficiently compensated matters.

“When raises are provided to the federal workforce, that improves the disposable income of the residents of our community. It even helps our Main Street employers because when people have money in their pockets, they are able to spend it,” the congressman said.

Towns and cities around defense complexes will also benefit. The federal legislation also increased funding to assist state and local governments to pay for community infrastructure projects surrounding military installations. Local businesses can apply for federal grants to help pay for local needs. “The federal government will be a partner in paying expenses rather than the costs falling entirely on the shoulders of the taxpayers of Kitsap County,” Kilmer said.