WASHINGTON — What a difference a year makes.
Though the Defense Department is seeking modest gains for military
construction and housing improvements, some in Congress believe the DOD is
shortchanging servicemembers on quality of life issues.
Rep. Chet Edwards, D-Texas, balked at the Pentagon's $9.5 billion military
construction budget request for fiscal 2005 and outlying years, saying the
department shouldn't cheat servicemembers in areas such as improved housing —
especially at a time when much of the force is at war.
He rebuffed budget officials Wednesday during a congressional hearing for
decreasing the funding they planned to request in the coming years.
During last year's budget cycle, officials submitted plans for fiscal 2005
seeking $10.9 billion for military construction. Now, the budget request totals
But with competing needs for Pentagon dollars, the department is doing the
best it can, Comptroller Dov Zakheim said during the hearing before the House
Appropriations Committee's subcommittee on military construction.
The DOD manages nearly 600,000 buildings and structures and more than 46,000
square miles of real estate, said Raymond DuBois, deputy undersecretary for
Installations and Environment.
Edwards also accused the Defense Department budgeters of misleading
servicemembers and their families when Zakheim said the "FY2005 request enables
the Department to eliminate nearly all of its inadequate family housing by
There were exceptions, Zakheim said, including the Army's plans to get to
that goal for overseas bases by 2007 and Air Force for four stateside bases by
Edwards' point was that budgeted amounts are for contract-awarding
projections, possibly not for actual improvements.
"It could still take four to six years after the contracts are signed to
[improve housing]. That's not what you said and that's simply not right to do."
Zakheim agreed — in part.
"It might take four years, it might take less, it might take more," he
responded. But the projections aren't misleading, he said. They're projections.
On the contrary, DuBois said, it's good news.
"We accelerated our goal to eliminate nearly all inadequate housing from
fiscal year 2010 to 2007," he said.
"By the end of FY2005, we will have reduced the number of inadequate housing
units to roughly 61,000, or 64 percent, from our FY2002 level of 168,000
Of the total budget, which pays for construction, repairs and maintenance,
family housing and needs associated with old accounts from the Base Realignment
and Closure process, the Pentagon wants to spend $5.1 billion on military
construction and maintenance projects, $4.2 billion in family housing projects
and $200 million for BRAC.
That translates to $427.3 million for projects at U.S. bases in Europe and
$244.5 million in the Pacific, including much-anticipated dorms in South Korea.
The BRAC dollars pay for the closings or realignments done in the past.
Between 1988 and 1995, four BRAC commissions proposed changes to 152 major
installations and 235 smaller ones.
The budgeted amounts pay for projects such as clean up and environmental
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