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Congress funds more than $2 billion in construction projects

By Staff Sgt. C. Todd Lopez

WASHINGTON (Jan. 07, 2003) -- Congress approved more than $2 billion to fund Air Force construction projects over the next year.

The fiscal 2003 National Defense Authorization Act includes $1.3 billion in funding for Air Force military construction, including dormitories, fitness centers, force protection projects and operational infrastructure projects. An additional $689 million in funding was approved for construction or improvement of military family housing.

According to the Air Force engineering division chief, $339 million of that funding will be used to construct infrastructure for new mission or mission realignment related construction.

"New missions (mean) missions for new weapons systems, such as the F/A-22 (Raptor) or C-17 (Globemaster III)," Col. Andrew Scrafford said. "(The F/A-22) is an entirely new mission -- you are going from an F-15 (Eagle) at Langley Air Force Base, (Va.,) to F/A-22s."

At Langley and Nellis AFB, Nev., more than $40 million will be used for F/A-22 support. That money, explained Scrafford, goes to build infrastructure to support the new weapons systems.

"Usually hangars and squadron operations facilities," he said.

Besides funding construction projects for new or realigned missions, the act authorizes nearly $125 million for dormitory construction at nine bases in the continental United States and one in South Korea. Nearly $50 million will be used for environmental projects, and $34 million will be used to fund construction of or improvement to fitness facilities at Andersen AFB, Guam; Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England; and Hanscom AFB, Mass.

In all, about $1.07 billion is authorized for funding the more than 100 active-duty Air Force military construction projects slated to begin in fiscal 2003.

But not all money authorized will be used to fund military construction projects at active-duty bases, Scrafford said. Funding is also targeted for the Air National Guard and the Air Force Reserve. More than $204 million is aimed at construction projects that include infrastructure supporting the KC-135 Stratotanker at Sioux Gateway Airport in Sioux City, Iowa, and C-17 infrastructure at Jackson, Miss., International Airport.

"They don't have those aircraft at those locations at this time," Scrafford said. "So bedding those new weapons systems down is going to take some military construction funds. That's why we consider it (a) new mission or force realignment -- it is a change to the way in which current installations operate."

The Air Force Reserve component will see more than $85 million for new construction projects.

Overall, the fiscal 2003 Air Force military construction program includes 145 projects in 36 states, the District of Columbia, and nine foreign countries or territories.

Construction will begin within the fiscal year on most of the projects, Scrafford said.

"We have had a good history of having the project (contracts) awarded within the year," he said. "Whether or not the project actually starts depends on the major command. Within the next 18 months all awarded projects will be under construction, but within the first year we expect construction to have started on 50 to 75 percent of the projects."

Besides operational and military construction, the act authorizes nearly $690 million for construction of family housing, said Col. James P. Holland, division chief for Air Force housing. Receipt of that money, he explained, is based on the Air Force family housing master plan.

"Currently the plan is laid out to replace or improve all of our Air Force housing by 2010," Holland said. "Our fiscal 2003 budget is based on that, so normally we receive funding at or above that."

The fiscal 2003 money, Holland said, will be used to construct or improve housing at some 29 Air Force installations worldwide.

"We're going to wind up replacing 2,079 houses and constructing 115 new houses in 2003," Holland said.