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Donnelly defends Guard youth project

– Sen. Joe Donnelly said Friday he will vote against legislation that would halt federal funding for the Department of Defense Starbase youth program, which has an academy in Fort Wayne.

Starbase “provides a real window into science, technology, engineering and mathematics at a reasonable cost,” Donnelly, D-Ind., said during a visit to Fort Wayne.

“We are working very hard to reduce expenditures across the government, to reduce spending, but this is a program I think that has shown it has significant value,” he said.

Starbase Indiana, housed at the Air National Guard’s 122nd Fighter Wing on Ferguson Road, costs about $300,000 a year. More than 800 fifth-graders have studied robotics, rocketry and computer-aided design at the lab since it opened in February 2012.

The Pentagon operates nearly 80 such sites nationwide at a total cost of about $21 million in fiscal 2013.

Congress has until March 27 to approve a continuing resolution that would extend government appropriations through Sept. 30. An amendment by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., would strip Starbase from the Pentagon’s budget.

The Greater Fort Wayne Chamber of Commerce on Friday issued a “call to action” for people to express their support for Starbase to Hoosier members of Congress.

Promoting training

Donnelly was in town Friday to tour Aptera, a downtown software development company. It was the latest in a series of statewide visits where he has promoted the America Works Act, a bill he co-sponsored that would require federal training programs to give priority to training that provides nationally portable, industry-recognized certification.

The bill aims to bridge a “skills gap” between workers and employer needs.

“We have to look outside the area to find the caliber of talent we need,” said Mickail Kashani, human resources manager for Aptera, which employs 66.

Donnelly and Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind., also announced Friday they have introduced a bill together that would require the president’s yearly budget proposal to include the per-taxpayer cost of projected deficit spending.

The House on March 5 overwhelmingly approved a version sponsored by Rep. Luke Messer, R-6th.

bfrancisco@jg.net

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