US Air Force: Nearly $5B needed for hurricane, flood damage

The U.S. Air Force said Wednesday that it needs nearly $5 billion in additional funding to help rebuild two bases damaged by hurricanes and floods.

“We desperately need the supplemental funding to recover from the natural disasters that hammered Tyndall and Offutt,” Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said at a speech at the Heritage Foundation Wednesday, referring to installations in Florida and Nebraska that were damaged by a hurricane and flooding.

Tyndall Air Force Base, located just east of Panama City, Florida, was badly damaged by Hurricane Michael in October of last year, and Offutt Air Force Base, just south of Omaha in Nebraska, was flooded earlier this month.

The Air Force said it requires $1.2 billion in additional supplemental funding in fiscal year 2019 and $3.7B in fiscal year 2020/2021 to help rebuild the two bases.

Without the additional funding, the Air Force warned that it would have to delay 61 facility repair projects at 18 Air Force bases worldwide.

“These are just the first decisions that we had to make yesterday,” Wilson said, adding that “61 projects in 18 states are not going to happen because we have not gotten a disaster supplemental for Tyndall.”

The Air Force warning comes days after similar warnings from the Commandant of the US Marine Corps. Gen. Robert Neller, who said that hurricane repair damage had forced unexpected costs on the Marines and that billions in additional funding were needed.

Neller said that he has been forced to curtail or cancel several training exercises to free up funds for hurricane repair.

The Pentagon is seeking additional funds from Congress to help meet these needs, but the ability to move unused funds from existing accounts toward hurricane and flood repair has been limited by the Trump administration’s decision to shift unused funds to help fund a wall on the southern border.

Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan sent a memo last week saying that he had notified Congress of his intent to shift $600 million in 2019 Pentagon funds to help meet hurricane repair related needs, a figure below what Air Force and Marine Corps officials say they need.

The Trump administration’s 2020 budget request includes an additional $2 billion in funds for hurricane repair efforts in North Carolina and Florida.