ARLINGTON, Va. (AFNS) --
The Air Force will be forced to stop all new rebuilding efforts at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, starting May 1 because of the absence of Congressional funding.
Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson announced the pending work stoppage March 27 at a public event, citing a critical need for supplemental funding to recover from the natural disasters that struck Tyndall and Offutt Air Force Bases.
Hurricane Michael inflicted $4.7 billion of damage to Tyndall AFB in October 2018. Hurricane Michael was recently upgraded and recognized as a Category 5 storm. It was one of only four Category 5 hurricanes to make recorded landfall in the continental United States. The rare magnitude of destruction damaged nearly 700 buildings and forced the Air Force to relocate 11,000 personnel and 46 aircraft.
Then, in March 2019, a historic flood inundated Offutt AFB, Nebraska. Flood waters submerged dozens of buildings and much of the flightline under eight feet of water.
“Homeowners and businesses purchase insurance to protect themselves from these kinds of disasters, but that’s not an option for the military,” Wilson said. “When unavoidable catastrophes strike our facilities, supplemental funding from Congress is our only recourse. If they don’t step in, our communities, our readiness and our security all pay the price.”
Wilson said the work stoppage would prevent new contracts from being started, including new rebuilding efforts. The work stoppage does not apply to contracts already funded for clean-up and repair efforts.
Wilson previously announced the deferral of 61 critical infrastructure projects across 18 states and five overseas locations worth a total of $272.4 million as the Air Force prioritized funds to ensure the safety and welfare of its people and equipment while waiting on supplemental funding.
“The supplemental funding and budget reprogramming requests are about more than just Tyndall and Offutt (AFBs),” Wilson said. “We’re robbing other projects to fund minimal recovery efforts because Congress hasn’t moved forward yet with recovery funding. The lack of funding now for these projects is impacting all of our bases.”
Wilson warned of more impacts rapidly approaching in the absence of a supplemental appropriation to recover Tyndall and Offutt AFBs. The Air Force expects to stop intensive depot-level aircraft repairs starting mid-May, which would ground five bomber aircraft later this fall and create a long-term backlog for E-3 Airborne Warning and Control System aircraft maintenance. Offutt AFB recovery efforts and flying operations are also at risk if delays in funding continue.
“We’ll continue to face natural disasters but we can’t set the precedent of not rebuilding our bases following a storm like Hurricane Michael,” Wilson said. “A natural disaster shouldn’t decide whether our communities keep their bases.”