The U.S. Air Force had slashed funding for three projects at Anderson Air Force Base and reprogrammed the cost savings to build an aircraft repair facility, a $34.4-million project which Congress authorized in 2015 but did not back up with a corresponding appropriation.
“Without this facility, Andersen will be unable to provide adequate low observable, corrosion control, and composite repairs to support a continuous bomber presence, tanker task force, and the theater security packages,” the Air Force stated in its project justification form.
“Lack of this facility would significantly reduce readiness, and could result in degradation of operational capability, and may increase potential for a serious mishap,” the Air Force said.
The project was fully authorized in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015. However, the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act 2015 did not appropriate funds for this project.
“According to Air Force officials, since this was their top unfunded military construction priority, they used $34.4 million in savings achieved from other projects to construct the repair shop,” the Government Accountability Office said in a report released March 27.
The Air Force sliced $23.3 million from the $132.6 million appropriated in 2014 for the construction of maintenance hangar and squadron operations center at Andersen Air Force Base. It took another $2.5 million from appropriation for tactical missile maintenance facility project, whose 2014 funding subsequently went down from $10.53 million to $8.03 million.
To complete the full amount required for the construction of the repair shop, the Air Force reprogrammed $8.6 million from the appropriation for strike fuel systems maintenance hangar — which originally had a funding level of $64 million, but its cost estimate was later readjusted to $37.73 million.
Military construction appropriations are generally available for obligation for five fiscal years, GAO said. “For five years after they expire, appropriations are available for limited purposes, such as liquidating obligations made during the period of availability or adjusting contract costs.”
After these five years, GAO said, any remaining unexpended amounts, whether obligated or unobligated, are canceled and returned to the U.S. Treasury are no longer available for any purposes.
“For any given year there are typically hundreds of millions of dollars reprogrammed.,” GAO said. “There are generally multiple active or canceled projects that result in cost savings, which may be used to fund authorized but not specifically funded projects.”
Between 2005 through 2016, Congress appropriated about $66 billion in military construction funds for Army, Navy, and Air Force installations through the UNited States and overseas. "As of September 30, 2016, the active component had obligated all but about $5.1 billion and expended all but about $11 billion of those funds," GAO said.
Of the $5.1 billion remaining unobligated, GAO said, about $4.6 billion was still available to be obligated.
"During fiscal years 2010 through 2016, the active component reprogrammed about $1.6 billion in MILCON appropriations to fund emergency projects, projects that were authorized but did not receive specific appropriations, and projects needing additional funding. Of this amount, the Army reprogrammed about $789 million; the Navy, about $535 million; and the Air Force, about $295 million," GAO said.