The House Appropriations Committee, prodded by U.S. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, provided a measure of encouragement Tuesday by approving $234 million in emergency funding to replace important equipment destroyed by the March flooding at Offutt Air Force Base. Now the full House and Senate need to follow up and approve all emergency funding for Offutt.
The $234 million is to replace electronic equipment to process classified data, plus crew training simulators, all rendered inoperable by the flood. The Air Force has requested a separate $420 million for additional needs as the base works to restore itself to full operating capability in the wake of the historic flood.
The Air Force requests aren’t for low-priority items; they’re for necessities vital to our national security. In all, floodwaters damaged 137 structures at Offutt.
Outgoing Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson has warned that nearly all recovery work at the base will stop July 1 if emergency funds aren’t approved. Bruce Wright, president of the Air Force Association, has voiced strong concern over the situation, saying Air Force facilities are at risk from lawmakers’ “increasingly high-risk game of pass-the-buck” in deciding funding for the military’s emergency and readiness needs.
Offutt and Tyndall Air Force in Florida (catastrophically damaged by a hurricane last fall) could lose 18,000 flight training hours by September, greatly undermining military readiness, if Congress fails to approve emergency funding for rebuilding.
The need for action by federal lawmakers is clear. The bases need these funds now. There should be no excuses for further delay.