Montana projects on list of potential funding sources for border wall; but might not be affected under Pentagon criteria

Sen. Jon Tester has “slammed” a Trump Administration proposal for border wall funding that could impact military construction projects in Montana.

Earlier this week, the Pentagon released a document that includes a list of U.S. military construction projects that the White House could redirect funds from to build a border wall.

The $14.6 million missile maintenance facility at Malmstrom Air Force Base and the $9 million C-130 aircraft apron for the Montana Air National Guard in Great Falls are both on the list.

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In a release this week, Tester said: “The President’s dangerous proposal to take money away from our troops to build a wall undermines the missions at Malmstrom and MANG. I’ve fought alongside our military leaders for years to secure these investments for Montana, and I won’t stand by while our sate’s critical national security resources get ransacked by the President.”

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It’s unclear whether those projects would be defunded in favor of the border wall since both of the Great Falls military construction projects have projected award dates for the current fiscal year, which according to the Pentagon’s document, means they wouldn’t be tapped for the border wall if that stays on schedule.

The Pentagon document also details criteria for identifying funding for the border wall.

According to the Pentagon’s criteria:

  • No military construction projects that already have been awarded, and no military construction projects with FY 2019 award dates will be impacted.
    • No military housing, barracks, or dormitory projects will be impacted.
    • The pool of potential military construction projects from which funding could be reallocated to support the construction of border barrier are solely projects with award dates after September 30, 2019.

The list in the Pentagon’s document is a “complete pool of all the projects that were unawarded as of Dec. 31, 2018.

“Once the above criteria is applied, the pool has a total value that is in excess of the amount needed to source potential section 2808 projects. The appearance of any project within the pool does not mean that the project will, in fact, be used to source section 2808 projects,” according to the Pentagon document.

Section 2088 is the authority the White House is looking to use to reedirect military construction funds to the border wall. The White House has been seeking about $3.6 billion in military construction funds toward the border wall project.

Last week, Tester opposed Trump’s emergency declaration.

Tester’s office said Thursday that it will continue to have concerns that the facility is at risk until the contracts are awarded since the timelines can slide. If the funding source for the wall was clear, Tester’s office told The Electric, the missile maintenance dispatch facility wouldn’t have been included in the latest list of projects that could be impacted.

The missile maintenance facility at Malmstrom is currently out for bid. In January, the head of civil engineering on base said they expected the contract to be awarded in April. The Pentagon’s list is showing an expected award date for June.

On Thursday, Malmstrom public affairs told The Electric that the time allowed for submission of proposals for the missile maintenance dispatch facility has been extended to June so the project could be funded in the current fiscal year or early in fiscal year 2020, which starts Oct. 1.

“We are currently waiting on the congressional process to unfold and then the award of the contract through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers,” Malmstrom officials said in an email to The Electric on Thursday.

The C-130 apron project is on the Pentagon’s list with a projected contract award date in September, which could put it in jeopardy since the federal fiscal year ends Sept. 30. The Electric has requested more information from the 120th Airlift Wing on the status of that project.

The new missile maintenance facility is being built because the functions that would occupy that building are being displaced from their current location in the existing three-bay hangar. That hangar is being renovated to house the new MH-139 helicopters that are coming to replace the current UH-1N Huey fleet.

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Construction on base also includes a new facility for the tactical response force and the helicopter operations airmen. They’ll be co-located, making it quicker and more efficient when they need to leave in a hurry to get to the missile field.

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That construction contract was awarded to Swank Construction in July 2018 for the $17.4 million project that will support 75 helicopter operations personnel and 75 security forces airmen, 341st Civil Engineer Squadron commander Lt. Col. Alex Mignery said in January.

That project is underway and slated for completion in 2020.

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The missile maintenance dispatch facility is 43,500 square feet of new construction. During a January event, Mignery said they expected the contract to be awarded this spring for completion in 2020.

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A new weapons storage area is in the design phase and Malmstrom is slated to be one of the first bases for that project. Mignery said in January that a contract award is expected in 2020.