May 1 (UPI) -- Rebuilding of Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., devastated in 2018 by Hurricane Michael, stopped on Wednesday due to a lack of Congressional funding.
The hurricane caused nearly $5 billion in damage to the base, damaging nearly 700 buildings and forcing the relocation of 11,000 personnel and 46 aircraft. While already-contracted cleanup actions can proceed, all new work has been stopped and 120 projects expected to begin after May 1 have been deferred.
The Air Force budget for Fiscal Year 2019 has a $4 billion shortfall, and Congress has not appropriated additional funding for work at Tyndall AFB and at Offutt AFB, Neb., the site of a 2019 flood, Defense News reported. Although several disaster-relief funding bills are under discussion in Washington, solutions have been stalled by partisan disagreements.
Effective Wednesday, the Air Force must stop the arrangement of new contracts for Tyndall recovery efforts until supplemental funding comes through, John Henderson, Air Force assistant secretary for installations, environment and energy, said.
Heather Wilson, Secretary of the Air Force, previously announced deferral of 61 infrastructure projects at bases across the United States, as the Air Force attempts to move funds to cover essential defense services.
"The supplemental funding and budget reprogramming requests are about more than just Tyndall and Offutt," said Wilson. "We're robbing other projects to fund minimal recovery efforts because Congress hasn't moved forward yet with recovery funding. The lack of funding now for these projects is impacting all of our bases. We'll continue to face natural disasters but we can't set the precedent of not rebuilding our bases following a storm like Hurricane Michael."
The Air Force will end intensive depot-level aircraft repairs in mid-May. The action would ground five bomber aircraft later this fall and create a long-term backlog for E-3 Airborne Warning and Control System aircraft maintenance.