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Air Force discusses infrastructure budget with Senate

By Staff Sgt. C. Todd Lopez

WASHINGTON (March 05, 2003) -- Congressional testimony by the assistant secretary of the Air Force for installations, environment and logistics March 4 included plans for sustaining overseas facilities and support of new missions and weapons systems.

But, Nelson F. Gibbs' presentation to a Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on military construction highlighted more than just the structures needed to keep planes in the air and their support mechanisms in place. Quality-of-life initiatives such as dormitories and base housing improvements needed to sustain hundreds of thousands of men and women in blue were on the docket as well.

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"Our budget request reflects the Air Force's continuing commitment to taking care of its people and their families," Gibbs said. "Their welfare is a critical factor to overall Air Force combat readiness. The family housing program, dormitory program and other quality-of-life initiatives reflect a commitment by the Air Force to provide its people with the facilities they deserve."

Monies requested in the fiscal 2004 budget include the construction of more than 2,000 family housing units at 18 bases. The funding also will be used to improve about 1,500 housing units at an additional eight bases and will support the privatization of nearly 7,000 housing units at another seven bases.

The budget also includes substantial funding for the Air Force's efforts to improve housing for unaccompanied airmen.

"To improve the quality of life of the Air Force unmarried junior enlisted members, the Air Force is requesting $200 million for its fiscal 2004 dormitory program which consists of nine enlisted dormitories in stateside bases and two at overseas bases," Gibbs said.

Quality-of-life improvements in the proposed budget also include provisions for fitness centers at six Air Force installations worldwide.

In addition, Gibbs said, sustainment of facilities overseas makes up about 11 percent of the total Air Force physical infrastructure. The budget request includes repairs and upkeep for facilities in both the European and Pacific theaters -- 22 projects with a total cost of more than $170 million.

Also included in the proposal was $273 million to fund infrastructure construction for new or relocated missions, including support for the F/A-22 Raptor and the C-17 Globemaster III programs.

Construction of infrastructure for other weapons systems, those that are either new to the Air Force or are transitioning to another facility, is also included in the budget. Such systems include the Global Hawk, the C-130J, the Joint Strike Fighter, and combat search and rescue support for Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz.

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