Just days before the Oct. 1 start of the 2009 fiscal year, Congress has approved a mammoth spending measure to keep funds flowing for federal programs, including all major construction accounts. Among the winners in the package, which President Bush signed on Sept. 30, are Dept. of Defense construction programs. They receive funds for all of fiscal 2009, at sizable hikes over 2008 levels. But most non-defense construction accounts, such as highways, river locks and dams and Superfund cleanups, will be funded just through March 6 and frozen at this year’s spending levels. There also is $22.3 billion to help about 25 states rebuild from hurricanes and other disasters.

“We’re very pleased with the overall package,” says Marco Giamberardino, senior director of the Associated General Contractors’ federal and heavy construction division. “It brings stability and predictability to the funding process.” Larry Bory, HDR vice president for federal government relations, adds, “I think the most important thing is that Congress actually took care of this so that these programs won’t be shut down.”

The measure, which gained final congressional approval on Sept. 27, includes $602.8 billion for the full fiscal 2009 for DOD, veterans and Dept. of Homeland Security programs. Of that sum, the military construction-veterans’ share is $72.9 billion; the DHS allotment is $42.2 billion.

Among DOD programs, the base realignment and closure account gets $9.2 billion, up 18%. With the Pentagon due to finish shutting posts on the base-closure list in 2011, “We need to get those facilities funded, those projects out on the street and built,” says Giamberardino.

The disaster-aid section includes $2.8 billion for the Corps of Engineers for New Orleans-area flood protection and repairs in 25 states to facilities damaged by hurricanes and other disasters. The Federal Highway Administration receives $850 million to reimburse states for post-disaster road repairs.

Spending Package’s Construction Highlights
Civilian construction: Programs funded at fiscal 2008 levels, through March 6, 2009.
Disaster Relief: $22.3 billion total, includes:

Corps of Engineers: $1.5 billion for New Orleans-area flood protection; $1.3 billion for work in 25 states, including levee repairs, harbor and channel dredging and other projects.
FHWA: $850 million emergency-relief aid.
HUD: $6.5 billion for community development block grants.
FEMA: $8 billion for Disaster Relief Fund, for Midwest floods, Hurricanes Gustav and Ike and 17 other disasters and emergencies.
GSA: $182 million for new Cedar Rapids, Iowa, courthouse.

DOD/VA Construction (full FY ‘09)
  FY09 ($ millions) % change vs. FY08
DOD base-closure program 9,224 18
Family housing construction 1,422 39
Other military construction 12,195 23
VA major construction 923 -14
VA minor construction 742 75
Some numbers are rounded
Source: House, Senate Appropriations Committees, ENR