Military construction budget prioritizes housing, shipyard infrastructure

The Military Construction-VA spending bill focuses on upgrading military housing, improving shipyard infrastructure and advancing projects Indo-Pacific.

The Defense Department is slated to receive $2 billion for family housing, an increase of $30 million above the President’s budget request, to start remediating deteriorating conditions of military installations that have been plagued by mold, pests and toxic waste, among other problems. 

Congressional leaders rolled out the fiscal 2024 spending “minibus” over the weekend, placing particular emphasis on funding quality-of-life programs, including improving what they have long called “substandard” and “unacceptable” living conditions of military housing facilities. 

“This is disgusting, this is unsatisfactory. Would any of you want your children in these kinds of conditions?” Rep. Michael Waltz (R-Fla.) said at the House Armed Services Committee panel hearing in February. “Infrastructure across the department and the services continues to age, and the deteriorating conditions at military facilities obviously have broader effects.”

The House approved the fiscal 2024 spending minibus on Wednesday, a significant step toward moving several federal agencies off a continuing resolution and finally resolving the government funding issue.  The senate is scheduled to vote on the bills late Thursday night.

The Military Construction-VA bill provides a total of $346.7 billion in spending for 2024, an increase of $24 billion above 2023. Much of the bill is focused on investments in veterans’ health care, upgrading military housing, bolstering national security in the Indo-Pacific region and improving shipyard infrastructure.

The bill contains a total of $153.9 million in mandatory spending for VA and military construction projects, a decrease of $248 million below 2023.

Of that total, $18.675 billion in discretionary funds will go toward military construction projects, which is $2 billion above the President’s budget request.

Military housing

A total of $2 billion will go toward family housing initiatives, including construction, maintenance, upgrades and oversight of privatized housing units.

If the legislation is enacted, about $320 million will go toward revitalizing five privatized housing projects and $449 million will go toward six government-owned family housing projects.

The bill provides $662 million to let DoD design and build over a dozen barracks in an effort to reduce a housing deficit for troops.

The legislation allocates over $304 million for family housing construction within the Army, about $277 million within the Navy and the Marine Corps and $237 million within the Air Force.

In addition, it provides $6.6 million for the Defense Department’s family housing improvement fund and $496,000 for the unaccompanied housing improvement fund.

Lawmakers also allocated $277 million for six new child development centers, with $59.5 million intended for planning and design of future facilities.

Installation and Energy Resilience

Congress included $30 million for DoD to carry out projects that help address facility and installation vulnerabilities related to climate change. 

Additionally, appropriators allocated $634 million toward the energy resilience and conservation investment program, which is used to implement energy resilience, energy security, energy conservation and water resilience projects. DoD gives priority to projects that will enable the department to deploy energy generation assets on site as part of cyber-secure microgrids, with priority given to carbon free electricity generation. 

The bill also has $150 million for the Air Force to continue to rebuild its Tyndall Air Force Base that was nearly leveled by Hurricane Michael in 2018. 

Shipyard Infrastructure 

The legislation allocates $2.4 billion for shipyard infrastructure optimization plan projects. This funding is higher than the 2023 enacted level by $1.1 billion and $164 million above the 2024 budget request.

The projects involve upgrading key infrastructure at naval facilities to accommodate the Navy’s next generation of submarines, including upgrades to dry docks, berths, cranes and utilities. These funds are intended for projects at each of the four public shipyards.

The bill also directs the comptroller general to submit a report on options for improving the management and oversight of the shipyard projects. 

Lawmakers want the comptroller general to assess the Navy’s acquisition strategy for procuring services and managing projects across the shipyards and the Navy’s support to the public shipyards and local shipyard construction agents. 

The comptroller general is expected to brief Congress on the preliminary findings within six months after the enactment of the legislation.

Overseas Infrastructure

The legislation includes more than $1.8 billion for 25 projects in the Indo-Pacific region and $131 million above the budget request for planning, design and minor construction to advance critical projects in the INDOPACOM theater.

The bill provides over $300 million for projects that support the European Deterrence Initiative and over $293 million for the NATO Security Investment Program, fully funding the U.S. cost share for NATO military construction projects.

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