Most of Florida’s unfunded military construction projects will be spared the axe of forced reallocation under President Donald Trump’s emergency declaration for the southern border wall because they fall before a key award cut-off date – Oct. 1, 2019.
There are $830 million in unfunded Florida base projects on the list submitted to congress by acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan.
However, all but one of the listed projects would have award dates after the cut-off. That project is as a $17 million fire/crash rescue station at Tyndall Air Force Base in the Panhandle, with a July 2020 award date.
Despite this, Tyndall Air Base, recovering from the effects of Hurricane Michael will still see progress on its rebuilding, which the Pentagon estimates will cost about $3 billion. Air Force officials say the rebuilt base will be resistant to storm surges and to wind speeds up to 180 miles per hour. Approximately $200 million has already been spent on cleanup and recovery from the 2018 hurricane.
The Tampa Bay Times reports that two projects at MacDill Air Force Base, worth $11.2 million, had projected award dates before the cut-off.
MacDill would receive $8.1 million for a new center to provide offices, administration and ancillary space for Operations Group and Maintenance Group personnel working with additional aerial refuelling tankers assigned to the base. MacDill’s fleet of 16 KC-135s will grow to 24, plus $3.1 million for KC-135 flight simulators.
Without the new building, the personnel “will be forced to operate in substandard and space deficient facilities that are already at capacity to meet mission requirements,” Air Force Capt. Samantha Morrison, a spokeswoman for the 6th Air Mobility Wing, the base host unit, told the newspaper.
That new center has an award date of September 2019 and the simulators, July 2019.
The Pentagon memo says throughout the military funds will not be cut for housing, barracks or dormitory projects. Projects which have already been awarded, and “military construction projects with FY 2019 award dates” are also excluded.
The Pentagon hasn’t decided yet which projects it will cut to meet Trump’s emergency funding demands. Cuts won’t be required if the new federal budget is adapted on time – but this has rarely happened historically.
Trump originally sought $5.7 billion for the wall. After congress disapproved the request, he issued an emergency declaration and is seeking to transfer $3.6 million in funds for other military construction projects for the border barrier.
Trump plans to use $601 million from the Treasury Forfeiture Fund and as much as $2.5 billion from Department of Defense counter-drug activities, and these funds would be used before military construction funds are diverted, the White House has said.
The issue will likely end up in the Supreme Court. Trump says he expects to win in the court, overcoming the constitutional arguments that grant the House of Representatives the authority to raise and allocate funds with the assertion that the emergency powers have been granted to him by congressional legislation, his constitutional authority to veto the legislation passed by the House and Senate disapproving his declaration. (Congress does not have enough votes to override the veto.)
At Tyndall Air Force Base, the planning is going beyond recovery and possible border wall funds reallocations to create a base designed for the military’s future requirements.
In addition to new hangars and other structures, the Air Force is contracting to rebuild the base’s control tower – and more importantly, preparing for a much longer-range vision about the base’s construction.
Col. Scott Matthews, a civil engineer with the Air Force who is part of a group working to rebuild Tyndall, told National Public Radio that his group is developing a new master plan for the base.
He says the devastation from Hurricane Michael left the Air Force with an opportunity to redesign the facility into what he calls “the base of the future.”