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Is Defense Infrastructure Good Use Of Stimulus Funds

If you go to Recovery.org and look at a number of recent contract awards with the "Stimulus" funds you will see many are for construction programs on military bases. There is a separate appropriation for this type of work called MilCon in the defense budget. Money for building facilities or upgrading them is usually in short supply as it is often one of the least important budget items in the defense budget.

There are also very strict rules about when money can and cannot be spent on these types of projects. Rules that often seem to flow from a Congressional belief that the U.S. military is spending hard earned tax dollars on palatial accommodations or facilities. Part of it is that it sometimes is easier to sell a new facility rather then just updating an old one to gain more capability. Another problem is that with downsizing and BRAC process since the early Nineties the U.S. defense department possesses a wealth of bases and buildings that may often be reused.

Here is a good recent example: Presolicitation: Fort Hood 1st Cav Division HQ Building Renovations(Bldg 28000). The 1st Armored Division is based at Fort Hood, Texas and is an organization of probably close to twenty thousand troops and a great deal of tanks and other armored vehicles. The new HQ building most likely will not cost the up to $500 million listed in the solicitation but the cost of over $100 million may be realistic. Depending what kind of IT and hardening the building requires it could cost this much or more.

The problem is that this may be using the "Stimulus" funds to do something that should be included in the regular defense budget. It may not have been do to its low priority. Justifying the spending of this amount of money on a project not planned for inclusion in the regular budget anytime soon because it might generate some jobs might be allowable but is this the best use of the taxpayers money?

Another military project believe it or not is the renovation of bathrooms for youth activity fields at Fort Drum, NY. This again is something that would either compete in the regular budget or be paid for out of user fees. Upstate New York is one of the most economically blighted areas of the U.S. The only person who commented on this proposal so far seems to feel that it is a misuse of funds.

The other thing is that these construction projects will create jobs but only in the short term. If there is not a constant stream of government funded work then eventually they will dry up. Wouldn't it make more sense to use the "Stimulus" funds to invest in something more permanent that might benefit a community over a long term? When the history of what so far seems to have been a mild failure of a program that may be the key argument.

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