The House and Senate have given final approval to legislation providing $10.5 billion in fiscal 2003 for Dept. of Defense construction programs, down 1% from the 2002 total. Final passage came on Oct. 10, with the House voting 419-10 for the measure and the Senate also approving it unanimously. The "mil con" legislation now goes to President Bush, who is expected to sign it although it is $835 million more than he requested.

(Photo courtesy of Office of Sen. Dianne Feinstein)

Senate military construction appropriations subcommittee Chairman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) calls the measure "a balanced, bipartisan bill intended to meet some of the most pressing infrastructure requirements of our military forces."

Within the bill, DOD family housing operation, maintenance and construction received a 2% boost, to $4.2 billion . That includes $1.3 billion for construction of new family housing units and improvements to existing facilities. Specific items include $17 million for 92 units at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri. Another $2.9 billion will go for family housing operation and maintenance.

Other military construction work--such as barracks, ports, airport runways and health-care facilities--will get $5.6 billion, down 5% from the fiscal 2002 mark. The 2003 total includes: $1.2 billion for barracks; $799 million for antiterrorism and force protection; $151 million for hospital and medical facilities; and $18 million for child development centers.

Lawmakers also allocated $501 million for environmental cleanup at former military bases that have been closed. That includes $20 million to expedite environmental cleanup at those sites.

Feinstein says, "Until the environmental cleanup process is completed, these closed bases are the equivalent of giant white elephants....In some cases, the lengthy cleanup process presents a problem far worse than just an economic drain on the [military] services and the communities." She says that in some instances "the contaminants polluting the soil of closed military bases present a serious hazard to human health and the environment."

Separately, the House gave final approval on Oct. 10 to a $355-billion defense appropriations measure for 2003. That bill includes $1.3 billion for environmental cleanup at active posts, about the same funding the program received in 2002. Senate approval of the DOD legislation is expected the week of Oct. 14.

The mil con measure is the first of the 13 fiscal 2003 appropriations bills to clear Congress. DOD would be the second, once the Senate acts.

The other 11 appropriations bills are mired in a dispute between the White House and its GOP allies and congressional Democrats. Those other programs are operating at 2002 funding levels under temporary spending measures.