President Bush’s latest request for additional defense funding, totaling $45.9 billion, is primarily for the war in Iraq. But it does include $1.5 billion for Dept. of Defense construction, mostly for work overseas but also for three Dept. of Defense medical facility projects in the U.S.
The fiscal 2008 supplemental proposal, sent to Congress on Oct. 22, would be on top of a $150.5-billion request made earlier, though not yet acted on by Congress. It drew sharp criticism from top congressional Democrats like Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.). “It is astonishing that the President can propose $153 billion for the war in Iraq, while he requests no funding none to provide medical care to our veterans, to secure our borders or to secure our ports,” says Byrd.
The proposal’s $1.5 billion for DOD construction includes $701.9 million for the Army, $305 million for the Air Force, $80.2 million for the Navy and Marine Corps, and $27.6 million for defense-wide facilities.
The Army’s share would fund water supply, treatment and storage facilities, protection for troops, such as “overhead cover systems” to shield against mortar and rocket fire, and airfield ramps, parking aprons and facilities in Iraq for “detainee operations.”
The Air Force’s $305 million would be allocated for planning and design and facilities such as ramps and taxiways in Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, Oman, Qatar and Iraq. The Navy and Marines’ $80 million would finance projects at Camp Lemonier, Djibouti.
Some of the milcon request is for domestic DOD health-care facilities. The Office of Management and Budget says that $415.9 million would expedite work on a proposed new military medical center at Bethesda, Md., and a new community hospital at Fort Belvoir, Va. OMB says the funds would help permit an “early transition” from Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Washington, D.C., into the planned, new replacement facilities. The transfer is part of the current Base Realignment and Closure round.
Groundbreaking at the new Fort Belvoir hospital is scheduled for early November. The Army awarded a $649-million construction contract for that project in late September to a team of Turner Construction and Gilbane Building Co.
The other domestic construction item in the budget proposal is $21 million for a new burn-treatment center at Brooke Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio.
Besides the military construction items, the White House request includes $160 million for the State Dept.’s embassy security, construction and maintenance account, “to address an urgent need to protect U.S. employees serving in Kabul, Afghanistan,” OMB says.
OMB adds that many U.S. workers in Kabul “are housed in containers, which do not provide sufficient protection from potential attacks.” The additional money would go for secure, permanent housing.