FAIRBANKS — Future construction projects at Eielson Air Force Base and Fort Greely are on a list of military projects that could be canceled or delayed as money is redirected to the United State’s Mexico border under a national emergency President Donald Trump declared last month.
But the list of possible projects available for cuts the Pentagon released on Monday did little to clarify what projects the military actually plans to cancel or delay. The list is a 20-page spreadsheet of projects around the world totaling more than $12 billion, so it’s hard to know which projects would be cut to free up the $3.6 billion in military construction spending the president diverted with the border emergency declaration.
Asked about the inclusion of Alaska projects on the list on Tuesday, all three members of Alaska’s Congressional delegation expressed concern about the possible delay or cancellation of construction work. But all three also pointed out reasons Alaska military construction projects are unlikely to be cut.
A one-page fact sheet at the start of the Pentagon military construction list mentions a couple projects that won’t be cut: military housing projects and projects with construction contracts that have already been awarded, or which will be awarded before the end of the federal fiscal year, Sept. 30. These criteria exempt some but not all of the pending Alaska military construction projects. Projects that have already been contracted or are scheduled to in the next months include several F-35 fighter jet related buildings at Eielson Air Force Base, the second phase of a radar system at Clear Air Force Station in Anderson and an office at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage.
Because of these criteria, the emergency declaration will not delay jobs planned for the 2019 construction season.
Alaska projects that are on the list that do not meet exception criteria and could have their funding repurposed include $75 million for two phases of power plant repairs at Eielson, $19 million for a combat arms training and maintenance range associated with the new F-35s, $29 million for a hangar for the AWACS aircraft in Anchorage and $8 million for an expansion of a missile field at Fort Greely near Delta Junction.
The fact sheet also states that if Congress approves the presidents $750 billion budget for the 2020 fiscal year, no military construction projects will be cut. That’s because the proposed military budget includes $3.6 billion to backfill the military construction funding moved to border security through the emergency declaration. The proposed 2020 budget also includes additional funding for border security.
Alaska’s all-Republican Congressional delegation was divided last week on a resolution to overturn Trump’s emergency declaration that passed the House and Representatives and Senate. Sen. Lisa Murkowski voted “yes,” joining 11 other Republicans and all senate Democrats. Sen. Dan Sullivan and Rep. Don Young voted “no.”
In an email Tuesday, Murkowski spokeswoman Karina Borger said the senator was concerned regarding the tapping of any funds that had already been designated for military construction. But she said that, in Alaska, many important construction projects have already been contracted or will be soon.
“In terms of the list of Alaska projects as a potential funding source for the project, it is good news that nothing essential to completion of the Long Range Discrimination Radar at Clear, the F-35 beddown at Eielson, or the construction of Missile Field No. 4 is on the list,” Borger said in an email.
She said some of the projects that are on the list have previously been delayed for reasons not related to the emergency declaration. For example, Eielson the Air Force was already discussing refurbishing two boilers at the power plant instead of purchasing new ones.
Borger also said military construction funding won’t be spent on border security until $4 billion in funding from other sources are spent.
Mike Anderson, a spokesman for Sullivan, said there’s another reason Alaska military funding projects may avoid getting cut: The Trump administration supports these projects. The president and Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan have both made recent statements praising defense projects in Alaska, Anderson said.
“Senator Sullivan remains confident that the Administration fully understands Alaska’s role in protecting our national security and will work to continue to protect Alaska’s military construction projects from being affected by the Administration’s Section 2808 authority under the National Emergency Act,” Anderson said in an email.
Young’s office had a similar message about the possible military construction cuts. Young’s office recently sent a joint letter to the president with Sullivan urging Trump to avoid creating any delays to military construction projects
“The list of military projects are simply potential sources of funding for border security, and no final decisions have been made,” Young spokesman Zack Brown stated in an email.
“Congressman Young recognizes that Alaska’s unique geographic location is an important asset to our national defense posture and will continue advocating for Department of Defense dollars to be invested in the state.”
Contact Outdoors Editor Sam Friedman at 459-7545. Follow him on Twitter: @FDNMoutdoors.
Correction: This article has been changed to reflect the following correction.
Wednesday's article "Eielson, Greely projects could come to a stop due to national emergency declaration" misspelled the name of Karina Borger, a spokeswoman for Sen. Lisa Murkowski.