The Air Force secretary said Monday a continued delay in supplemental funding to repair hurricane and flooding damage at the Tyndall and Offutt Air Force Bases could result in losing 18,000 flying hours, maintenance disruptions and stops to over 60 construction projects, calling on Congress to pass a disaster relief that would supply hundreds of millions or dollars to assist reconstruction efforts.
Secretary Heather Wilson told attendees at a Meridian International Center event Monday that significant funding will also be required in the fiscal year 2020 budget for damage repair as the service continues pulling from other internal resources to fix the most pressing basing requirements.
“The Air Force is now facing a terrible situation where we had a Category 5 hurricane slam into one of our bases, and we had a flood at another of our bases. We still have not gotten the supplemental funding through to fix that,” Wilson said. “We still have not gotten the first ‘insurance payment’ to help that base recover. More than anything else right now, we need to get the supplemental [funding] because we’ve been robbing every other account across the Air Force to pay for that.”
Last October’s Hurricane Michael hit Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida, with Wilson adding that the panhandle of the state “still looks like a war zone.” This March, flooding at Offutt Air Force in Nebraska also caused significant damage.
The House on Friday passed a $19.1 billion disaster relief package that would include $270 million for repairs at both Tyndall and Offutt.
Air Force officials previously estimated that the service would require $1.2 billion in supplemental funding to fully address the damage.
Wilson told reporters following the event she was hopeful the Senate will pass the disaster relief bill.
“I don’t remember a disaster of this magnitude where the Congress didn’t act,” Wilson told reporters. “There is a significant amount of Tyndall money that will be required in the 2020 budget, particularly military construction money. There’s no way to get contracts in place for major military construction in the remainder of the year.”
Without the supplemental funding through the end of this fiscal year to repair damage, the Air Force would lose the thousands of flying hours, slow down maintenance, and halt certain unspecified aircraft refurbishment efforts, according to Wilson.
The lack of funding could also cause 61 construction projects to stop across 18 states, Wilson added.