The Pentagon announced Tuesday its plan to divert $3.6 billion from military project funds to support President Trump’s border wall effort. While the significant shift in funding is not set to disrupt any projects in progress, the cuts will put more than 100 planned military projects — including four in Alaska — indefinitely on hold.
The Department of Defense has said the projects from which the funding is being taken are being “deferred” and not canceled, but there is no plan to restore the funding in the near future.
Alaska Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan, a member of the Senate Committee on Armed Services, said he made sure projects already in the works in Alaska would not be affected.
“As the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness and Management, I have regularly emphasized to senior Department of Defense officials Alaska’s strategic importance to our nation’s security. For the past several weeks, the Secretary of Defense and the Deputy Secretary have assured me that the scheduled deployment of the F-35s at Eielson Air Force Base and the continued build out of America’s missile defense system at Ft. Greely and Clear Air Station remain fully on track,” Sullivan said in an email sent to the Daily News-Miner on Wednesday.
According to a list provided by Sullivan’s office, 127 military projects based in the United States, overseas and in three U.S territories will be affected. While none of the funding had been technically awarded to the planned projects, for some it was only a small matter of time.
One project, a $41.6 million effort to build out a joint mobility processing center in Greece, was set to be funded as soon as next month.
The four projects in Alaska that will be put indefinitely on hold until funding is restored are two repair projects for central heat and power at Eielson Air Force Base, slated for January 2020 and February 2021; a project to improve the Eielson Combat Arms Training and Maintenance Range for small arms training set for January; and an effort to expand Missile Field 1 at Fort Greely, which was set to receive funding in January 2021.
Sullivan said he wished money did not have to be taken from military projects, blaming Democrats for forcing the move.
“While I do not agree with the decision to defer any military construction in Alaska, it should be noted that the Democrats’ obstruction to fund much needed border security has forced the Trump administration to undertake these measures,” Sullivan said, noting that he planned to work with the Pentagon to return some of the funding to Alaska.
Alaska Republican Rep. Don Young had a similar message of frustration.
“Congressional leadership had the opportunity to find a bipartisan solution to fund border security that would have avoided the deferment of these MilCon projects,” Young said, clarifying the projects are by no means canceled forever. “The deferment of these projects is regrettable, but it is important to note that they are just that: deferments. These projects aren’t canceled, and this won’t affect the planned delivery of the F-35s.”
Young said the four Alaska projects are just a fraction of the military projects Alaska’s congressional delegation has managed to nail down over the past few years. According to Sullivan’s office, these projects represent less than 8% of the military funding Alaska’s delegation has secured since 2015. Young emphasized the need to maintain an increased military presence in Alaska.
“When it comes to our national defense posture, Alaska is an important strategic location for keeping Americans safe, which is why we must ensure the deferred projects are supported,” Young said. “In future Defense Appropriations packages, I’ll be working with the delegation and those on both sides of the aisle to restore this funding.”
Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski was traveling and was unable to provide comment to the Daily News-Miner.
Contact staff writer Erin McGroarty at 459-7544. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMPolitics.