Military hurricane recovery gets pulled into border, climate debate

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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) -- Congress weighs a North Carolina military base’s future as the president pushes billions in increased military spending.

Camp Lejeune’s infrastructure needs major repair, after Hurricane Florence hammered the Marine Corps base last fall. The repair bill is estimated to be more than $3-billion.

North Carolina lawmakers want to see a big chunk of the president’s $750-billion proposed defense budget re-invested back home. “I’m personally really pleased to see the funding the president has proposed to improve our readiness and our military capabilities across the board,” said Rep. David Rouzer (R-NC).

Michael O’Hanlon -- a Senior Research Fellow with the Brookings Institute – said the president and Congress typically wouldn’t have any issue signing off on a multi-billion-dollar repair bill. “But of course, this could be one of those questions that gets mixed up with the border wall debate,” he said, “because military construction budgets could be the sort of place you look both to repair Lejeune and to build a border wall.”

Planned construction projects for Camp Lejeune -- with a combined $180-million price tag -- are on the president’s list of potential cuts, as he looks to build more border barrier than Congress approved.

Whether to pay for storm repair at Lejeune will largely remain lawmakers’ choice. “We’re going to ask the very, very hard questions about just how much is going to be done at that base,” said Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA) during a recent hearing on military readiness. He suggested the threat from future, climate-change driven storms may make it impractical to rebuild at Camp Lejeune and other Tyndall Air Force Base in Panama City, Florida – which Hurricane Michael struck in October.

Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle said if they are going to pay for cleanup – repairs and improvements need to be able to standup to the next natural disaster.



 
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