Indiana Air Force Base construction funding could be diverted to pay for border wall
Kokomo Tribune, Ind.
Two major construction projects at Grissom Air Reserve Base totaling $21.5 million could be diverted to fund President Donald Trump’s expanded border wall between U.S. and Mexico.
The Department of Defense last week released a full list of military construction projects that could be on the chopping block after Trump in February declared a national emergency to build the wall.
The emergency declaration gives the President authorization to use military funds that have already been budgeted for construction projects. The DOD projects that could be cut or delayed total $12.8 billion are located in nearly every state.
At Grissom, $9.4 million allocated to build an aerial port to support a new squadron housed at the base could be pulled.
Grissom Public Affairs Officer Doug Hays said in an interview last year the 12,000-square-foot facility will allow the 49th Aerial Port Squadron more space to move cargo and equipment for both military and humanitarian missions. The squadron is currently sharing a building with another entity at the base.
Another $12.1 million to upgrade one of the six airplane hangars there is in jeopardy.
Hays said last year that only one hangar right now is large enough to fit an entire KC-135 Stratotanker inside. Grissom has the largest unit of Stratotankers in the Air Force Reserve Command, and the funding will allow the base to upgrade another hangar to fully accommodate the refueling planes.
The question now is which DOD projects will be diverted to fund the construction of the wall.
The DOD said no military housing, barracks or dormitory projects will be impacted, and only projects that have construction award dates after Sept. 30 will be considered.
According to the list, the Grissom projects have a tentative award date in August, which could make them ineligible to be used for the border wall.
However, a DOD spokesperson said Monday no decisions have been made regarding which projects might be tapped, and would not confirm a definitive award date for the Grissom projects.
Public Affairs Officer Hays said Monday in a statement that the DOD list does “not foreshadow a loss of funding.”
That led Sen. Mike Braun to dismiss the DOD report, saying the list of projects is only “speculative.”
“Senate Armed Service Chairman James Inhofe has said this is not a list of projects that will definitively be impacted,” Braun said in a statement. “The Senate is working with defense officials to find resources in their $717 billion annual budget that will secure our southern border with minimal effect on military construction projects.”
Sen. Todd Young echoed that sentiment, saying “the list provided by the Pentagon is far from final.”
A spokesperson for Young said he “will be working with the White House to ensure securing the border doesn’t come at the expense of other national security priorities.”
But U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski, whose district includes Grissom, said she will work to ensure the base “receives the full resources needed to protect our national security.”
“The brave men and women who serve at Grissom play a critical role in keeping our nation safe,” she said in an email. “President Trump is right to take action to address the national emergency on our southern border, but funding should not be taken from projects that directly affect military readiness.”
Two other military installations in Indiana could also see funding diverted for the wall.
The Crane Army Ammunition Activity plant near Bloomington has $16 million allocated for a rail car holding area. Terre Haute’s Hulman Regional Airport used by the Air National Guard’s 181st Intelligence Wing has $8 million budgeted for a small-arms range.
Both the U.S. Senate and House earlier this month voted against Trump’s emergency declaration to build a wall. Trump, for the first time, used his veto power to overturn the vote.
Twenty states have now joined in a lawsuit to block the emergency declaration, calling it “reckless and unconstitutional.”
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