When Congress returns from its Memorial Day break, House and Senate negotiators will begin to reconcile bills to provide tens of billions of dollars for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Much of the public focus is on provisions dealing with prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. But each measure also includes about $4 billion for construction, though the funding mix differs.

The $96.9-billion House bill, passed 368-60 on May 14, would provide $3.2 billion for Dept. of Defense construction, including about $1.1 billion for hospitals. Appropriators didn’t specify which hospital projects should be funded but directed DOD to submit a spending plan. The House bill did include $263.3 million to speed hospital construction in Bethesda, Md., and Fort Belvoir, Va., to replace Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

Larry Bory, HDR senior vice president for federal government relations, says DOD has plans for many hospital projects. “They don’t have enough money for all of them,” he adds.

The Senate’s $91.3-billion war supplemental, approved May 21 by an 86-3 vote, contains $2.25 billion for DOD construction. The Senate didn’t include the House’s $1.1 billion for hospitals and cut the Bethesda and Fort Belvoir hospitals’ money by $32.4 million. Those funds were to go for a gym and swimming pool at Bethesda.

House and Senate bills would allocate $736 million to the State Dept. for embassy projects in Islamabad.

The bills’ other big construction spending difference is in Corps civil works. The Senate provided $842 million, including $489 million to rebuild barrier islands and do other ecosystem restoration on the gulf coast. The House bill has zero for Corps civil works. John Doyle, Waterways Council Inc. vice president for government relations, expects some Corps civil-works aid in the final package. Looking at the $842-million spread between the Senate and House bills, Doyle says, “I think it’ll be at least split-the-difference, if not more.”

Program House Senate
Army 1,407 1,279
Navy/Marine Corps 236 243
Air Force 279 265
Defense-wide hospitals 1,057 0
Defense-wide Natl. Security Agency data center 30 182
Bethesda, Fort Belvoir hospitals 263 231
State Dept. embassies 990 821
Corps of Engineers operation/maintenance, flood control/coastal emergencies 0 842
Totals are rounded. ($ Millions)

Both bills have large sums for State Dept. embassy work. The House provided $990 million; the Senate has $821 million. Projects in Islamabad, Pakistan, would get about $736 million. Of that, $405 million is for renovating or replacing the present chancery, $111 million to build a new annex, $112.5 million for Marine Corps guard quarters and $108 million for housing.