National Defense Authorization Act will benefit Barksdale December 15, 2017BlogJessica Hemingway Greg Hilburn USA Today/Louisiana Gannett President Trump has signed a bill that will boost Barksdale, Fort Polk and Belle Chasse in Louisiana as well as give America’s military families pay raises. The National Defense Authorization Act will give Barksdale’s B-52s a modern makeover, protect Fort Polk from the base closure list and and keep Belle Chasse’s F-15 fighters on guard for the Gulf Coast. Trump said the bill “represents a momentous step toward rebuilding our military” during a signing ceremony Tuesday at the White House. Congressman Ralph Abraham, R-Alto, the state’s only member of the House Armed Services Committee, has called the act “a home run for Louisiana.” Congressman Mike Johnson, R-Benton, said the act begins “a new era of military readiness and prioritization.” “This new law will ensure our men and women in uniform are taken care of, not only on the battlefield, but also here at home,” Johnson said. Among the benefits for Louisiana bases: A $109 million upgrade of the B-52 fleet that will keep the bombers airborne into the 2050s. “We depend on those big bombers daily on a global basis,” Abraham said. For Fort Polk, the bill prevents the enactment of the Base Realignment and Closure initiative. “Fort Polk comes out on top,” Abraham said. “It prevents the closure, which was a real fear in the community, especially in 22014 and 2015. Now that’s not a concern.” And at the Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base New Orleans (Belle Chasse), the bill keeps the F-15 fighter jets in service. “We use those F-15s as interceptors along our coast,” Abraham said. “I’ve been to Belle Chasse, and there was a great concern about the future.” The bill authorizes $700 billion in spending, which is even more than Trump requested. “As decimated as our military has been during the last eight to 10 years this is really a shot in the arm and something critically needed if we expect our men and women in service to give us 24-hour protection,” Abraham said. “This can put us back on the path to American military superiority,” he said. Clay Higgins, R-Port Barre, also supported the bill when it passed the House earlier this year. Higgins said defense spending reductions under former President Obama had weakened America’s military. “After a decade of cuts that slashed almost 25 percent of the defense budget, Congress is rebuilding and strengthening our military,” Higgins said in a previous statement. Greg Hilburn covers state politics for the USA TODAY Network of Louisiana.