Under the Dome

Fort Bragg among N.C. military bases to take $80M hit to fund Trump’s border wall

North Carolina’s military bases will lose about $80 million in planned military construction, according to a list released by the Pentagon on Wednesday of projects across the United States losing funding to build President Donald Trump’s border wall with Mexico.

The affected projects in North Carolina include $40 million for a new battalion complex and ambulatory care center at Camp Lejeune, a previously canceled $32.9 million elementary school at Fort Bragg, and a $6.4 million storage facility for the new KC-46 tanker at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base.

Those projects join cuts at a Florida base nearly destroyed by last year’s hurricane season, a new middle school for Kentucky’s Fort Campbell and a new fire station for a Marine Corps base in South Carolina.

In all, 34 installations in the United States and eight bases in U.S. territories, including Puerto Rico, Guam and the Virgin Islands, will absorb $1.8 billion in domestic cuts to planned construction projects. Puerto Rico, which was devastated by Hurricane Maria in 2017, is losing more than $400 million in planned military construction projects.

That money will be shifted to help support 11 military construction projects to extend the border wall at locations in Texas, Arizona and California. Another $1.8 billion will be pulled from planned construction projects at bases overseas to also support the border wall construction.

The Pentagon said in a briefing Tuesday that it was justified in shifting the $3.6 billion total in military construction funds to pay for border wall construction because it had determined that the wall was necessary to support military operations along the border.

A senior defense official briefing reporters Wednesday said the only factors that were considered on whether to cut a project was whether it had an award date after fiscal year 2020, and that no barracks or family housing would be cut.

That meant that bases hit hardest by last year’s hurricane season, including Camp Lejeune in North Carolina and Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida were not spared. Tyndall will lose $17 million for a fire station.

But those are often projects that local leaders have spent years lobbying for in order to secure funding in the annual defense bill, and getting that funding is often seen as an important victory for elected leaders.

Asked how the Pentagon has explained to those local communities and leaders how the wall was a more important priority, the official didn’t answer directly but said that the hurricane-hit bases were already being repaired through supplemental hurricane funding. “We are committed to the rebuild of Tyndall,” the official said.

To get the projects back on track, however, the Pentagon will need Congress to backfill the funds, and Congress has not indicated it is willing to do that. “Conversations are ongoing with Congress,” the official said.

Tara Copp is the national military and veterans affairs correspondent for McClatchy. She has reported extensively through the Middle East, Asia and Europe to cover defense policy and its impact on the lives of service members. She was previously the Pentagon bureau chief for Military Times and a senior defense analyst for the U.S. Government Accountability Office. She is the author of the award-winning book “The Warbird: Three Heroes. Two Wars. One Story.”
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