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Tyndall to share emergency funding in budget plan

Construction workers look on as the Chapel 2 steeple is demolished at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., Feb. 15, 2019. The chapel was severely damaged by Hurricane Michael, a category 4 storm that made landfall on Oct. 10, 2018.

JAVIER ALVAREZ/U.S. AIR FORCE

By JIM THOMPSON | The Walton Sun, Santa Rosa Beach, Fla. | Published: March 16, 2019

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Tribune News Service) — The rebuilding of Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., is in line for a share of $9.2 billion in emergency funding included in the Department of Defense budget proposal for the upcoming fiscal year designated in part for "unspecified military construction to ... rebuild facilities damaged by Hurricanes Florence and Michael."

Budget documents don't indicate exactly how much of that funding might go to Tyndall, which was all but destroyed when Hurricane Michael made landfall in the eastern Panhandle on Oct. 10 and scored a direct hit on the installation. But in a recent hearing in front of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, John Henderson – the assistant Air Force secretary for installations, environment and energy – put a nearly $5 billion price tag on rebuilding the base.

"Our initial estimate is that there is about a $4.7 billion to go back and rebuild what is one of our key fighter bases," Henderson told the subcommittee. Also, Henderson told lawmakers, the Air Force is already redirecting operations and maintenance funding in the current fiscal year's budget to recovery efforts at Tyndall.

For the current fiscal year at Tyndall, media reports indicate that outgoing Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson believes the Air Force will need an infusion of $1 billion in the current fiscal year for recovery efforts at the base or the service will have to start deferring projects at other bases. At the recent House subcommittee hearing, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who serves south Florida in Congress, urged Henderson to have the Air Force submit an emergency allocations proposal for the current fiscal year.

In other developments in the proposed defense budget for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, the Air Force's proposed spending plan includes more than $100 million for construction projects at Hurlburt Field for three Special Operations facilities. Hurlburt Field is headquarters of the Air Force Special Operations Command.

The facilities listed in the proposed military construction budget for Hurlburt are an aircraft maintenance and weapons hangar listed at $72.9 million, a maintenance training facility listed at $18.9 million and a combined squadron operations facility listed at $16.5 million.

The full budget request for the Department of Defense for the upcoming fiscal year totals $718.3 billion, with the Air Force accounting for $165.6 billion, nearly $10 billion more than the current fiscal year.

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