Several Oklahoma Projects Could Be Delayed, Cut To Fund The Border Wall

Tuesday, March 19th 2019, 2:25 pm
By: Grant Hermes

A bulk fuel system in McAlester, a firing range in Tulsa, a new fire rescue center in Altus and $180 million dollars in construction projects on Tinker Air Force Base could all be among the military construction projects delayed or cut to pay for President Donald Trump’s wall along the US-Mexico border.

In all, $251 million worth of military projects on military installations across Oklahoma are on the list of possible cuts.

In the 20-page letter sent to Congress on Monday, The Department of Defense outlines hundreds of military projects totaling $12.9 billion in unawarded military spending beginning in FY2015.

Mr. Trump has demanded $8.6 billion in order to fund the border wall. Roughly $3.6 billion would come from DOD funds which the President has promised to “back fill” while the Pentagon has reassured military installations it won’t outright cancel any project already funded by Congress.

According to the DOD letter, “No military housing, barracks or dormitory projects will be impacted.”

The projects, which could be affected, are projects with award dates after Sept. 30, 2019. The list does show projected award dates, potentially giving insight into which projects could be spared.

Tinker is set to be awarded $180 million in construction projects to build two new maintenance hangars for the new KC-46A refueling jets worth $81 million and $85 million. Those, according to the list, are expected to be awarded in the coming weeks, well ahead of the criteria deadline.

Tinker is also set to be awarded $14 million for a commercial vehicle inspection facility. That project is expected to be awarded in September, but if there are delays, it could be in jeopardy.

Altus AFB is set to be awarded $46 million spread across three projects. A $12 million KC-46A flight simulator project is set to be awarded next month, and an $18 million dorm is set to be awarded in October. Under the criteria, the simulator would be safe if the award date is met, and the dorm is exempted from delay or cancellation.  

A $16 million fire rescue center on base is also slated to be funded in October. According to a contract bid post, the facility would be roughly 34,500 sq. ft., equipped with garage space, an emergency call center and space for 18 personnel. It would also require the demolition of three buildings on base.

Elsewhere in the state, a $7 million bulk diesel system replacement project at McAlester’s ammunition plant is set for November. An $8 million small arms range construction project is also listed to be awarded in May of 2020 at the military logistics center in Tulsa, well after the exemption date.

According to the letter, decisions have not been made as to which projects will be delayed, and a project on the list that does not meet the exemption criteria isn’t necessarily on the chopping block.

Funding Mr. Trump’s border wall using military construction funds has been a sore spot for some members of Congress, including some from Oklahoma.

In the House, Representative Kendra Horn (D), who sits on her chamber’s Armed Services, criticized the president after he announced he’d be demanding the reallocation of money from military projects to fund the wall.  

“Taking money from critical projects that support our military readiness is unnecessary and shortsighted," Horn said in a statement late last month.

She also voted to block the emergency declaration in the House, a first of its kind vote in the history of the legislative branch. Her office did not immediately return a question for comment about the list of projects.

Senator Jim Inhofe (R), who chairs the Senate’s Armed Services Committee, has also expressed concern over Mr. Trump’s declaration on several occasions. The senior senator, however, has stopped short of issuing criticism, saying the president was within his power to issue the emergency declaration for the southern border. Legal scholars continue to debate whether the senator is correct.

Inhofe voted to uphold Mr. Trump’s declaration along with the majority of Republican Senators. The vote to block passed the Senate after 12 Republican senators crossed party lines, forcing the President to issue his first veto.

Since then, a spokesperson for Inhofe said the senator is “continuing to work with the Joint Staff and [US Northern Command] to determine projects that would allow for the use of the armed forces without negatively affecting any military construction projects.”

Inhofe has recently encouraged members of his committee to reach a budget agreement soon. If that happens, no project on the list would be delayed or cancelled, according to the letter.

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