Congress Comes Up With $400 Million for Camp Lejeune Storm Repairs

A tree collapsed outside Easy Company, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marines, during Hurricane Florence, on Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, Sept. 15, 2018. Hurricane Florence impacted MCB Camp Lejeune and Marine Corps Air Station New River with periods of strong winds, heavy rains, flooding of urban and low lying areas, flash floods and coastal storm surges. (U.S. Marine Corps photo/Isaiah Gomez)
A tree collapsed outside Easy Company, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marines, during Hurricane Florence, on Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, Sept. 15, 2018. Hurricane Florence impacted MCB Camp Lejeune and Marine Corps Air Station New River with periods of strong winds, heavy rains, flooding of urban and low lying areas, flash floods and coastal storm surges. (U.S. Marine Corps photo/Isaiah Gomez)

Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller said Friday that Congress has agreed to provide $400 million in funding to repair storm damage to family housing and other structures at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, a down payment on the $3.5 billion he says is necessary.

On Twitter, he wrote, "We have received word that Congress has agreed with the administration's request to reprogram $400 million to help Marines and their families recover from damage inflicted by Hurricanes Florence and Michael."

Neller had warned that unless Congress and the administration came up with funding for Lejeune recovery, the service would have to dip into its existing budget to pay for repairs, impacting overall readiness.

Marine officials told Stars and Stripes Friday that about two-thirds of the funding found by Congress would go to roof and interior building repairs on the base. The remainder, the outlet reported, would be used to repair external infrastructure, ranging from flight lines to fences and training roads.

Stripes also reported the $400 million reprogramming request was part of an effort to reallocate a total of $600 million for hurricane recovery, a move noted in the Pentagon's fiscal 2020 budget request. The other $200 million requested, if approved, would go to the Air Force to repair damage caused by Hurricane Michael at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, last October.

Hurricane Florence hit the Carolinas last September and lingered for days as a tropical storm, dropping record amounts of rain in coastal areas. Florence was followed by Hurricane Michael in October, which hit the Florida Panhandle as a Category 4 storm and moved to the northeast to dump more rain on the Carolinas and Georgia.

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"We have a very clear stated requirement for repair at Camp Lejeune. The total bill is about ... $3.5 billion," Neller told U.S. Naval Institute News in February at the WEST 2019 conference in San Diego.

"We don't have money for that. If we have to pay that ourselves, it'll take the [entire military construction] budget of the Marine Corps for probably the next four years," he said.

Damage from Hurricane Florence exposed long-term needs at Lejeune, Neller said. The storm's initial impact tore roofs off older buildings, and the following downpour compounded the damage, he added.

Patchwork repairs have been made to the older buildings, but they eventually will have to be replaced, Neller said.

The need for repairs and replacements for aging housing at Lejeune and throughout the military, and calls by Neller and other top commanders for added funding to address the problem, were complicated by President Donald Trump's declaration of a national emergency to build new sections of the southern border wall.

Trump initially proposed to take $3.6 billion from military construction projects, for which funds had already been appropriated by Congress but not spent, as part of a package of more than $8 billion for the border wall.

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan has said that none of the money for military construction projects will come from funding for military family housing.

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.

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