Offutt flood damage

Shattered glass and other debris litters the entryway of the 55th Security Forces Squadron headquarters building at Offutt Air Force Base. The building was destroyed by the March flooding.

WASHINGTON — A final, bipartisan version of Congress’ annual defense policy bill would authorize hundreds of millions of dollars to restore Nebraska military facilities damaged by this year’s historic flooding.

That’s according to Sen. Deb Fischer and Rep. Don Bacon, Nebraska Republicans who were tapped to negotiate differences between the House and Senate versions of the legislation.

“This relief will help cover much-needed repairs and speed up recovery, allowing our men and women in uniform to continue fulfilling their vital missions,” Fischer said in a Monday night press release. The amount set aside exceeds $400 million, according to Fischer’s office.

The money would pay for repairs at Offutt Air Force Base and replace mission equipment there, as well as help rebuild the Nebraska National Guard’s Camp Ashland, she said.

Every year, Congress passes a National Defense Authorization Act that sets out policies for the armed forces and authorizes spending levels on a vast array of military priorities.

The Senate and House each passed their own versions of this year’s bill. The House version included various provisions deemed “poison pills” by Republicans.

Bacon said all of those were removed from the final bill, which he said also eliminates the so-called widow’s tax. That refers to certain rules that effectively reduce benefits paid to surviving military spouses. Veteran groups have long lobbied to have those rules changed.

The House and the Senate will still have to vote on the final language before it goes to President Donald Trump’s desk. And the disaster assistance money will need to be included in actual spending bills.

But Monday’s announcement means that those dollars could be flowing soon.

In addition to the disaster relief, Bacon said the measure also authorizes money to repair or replace planes at Offutt.

And it would require the administration to consult with Congress before eliminating the “Open Skies” reconnaissance aircraft that are stationed at the base, he said.

“Total victory for Offutt and Nebraska,” Bacon said. “Good for our military men and women.”